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Smarter tagging practices for offenders needed, report finds

1 July 2016

Electronic tagging of offenders should be better integrated with other measures to support rehabilitation, according to a new report by University of Stirling researchers.

The two year study by criminologists Professor Gill McIvor and Dr Hannah Graham, working with an international team, sought the views of criminal justice social workers, Scottish Prison Service staff, sheriffs, the Parole Board for Scotland, Police Scotland, G4S monitoring staff and Scottish Government policymakers, among others.

Under present practice, tagged offenders are simply expected to stay home during curfews of up to 12 hours a day. It is regarded as a low cost way of keeping offenders out of prison, but frequency of use varies around Scotland, with three and a half times as many orders being made in Glasgow Sheriff Court as in Edinburgh.

About 1,000 people around the country are currently tagged.

Dr Graham commented: “Our findings suggest that the use of electronic monitoring in Scotland over the last 15 years can be characterised as relatively simple but stable in approach. There’s plenty of momentum among most participants in this study to pursue more innovative and tailored uses.

“Tagging and curfews alone don’t address the reasons why people commit crime. In line with international evidence, we recommend that tagging needs to be integrated with rehabilitative supports and opportunities to help people change their lives and leave crime behind.

“One approach to electronic monitoring simply doesn’t fit all. Involving criminal justice social workers will harness their practice wisdom in tailoring community sentences, and could reduce unnecessary uses of court time and resources – do sheriffs really need to decide on requests to change address?”

She added: "There's a need for greater clarity and consistency between sheriffs and courts about how and why they use electronic monitoring. Whether you get tagged or sent to prison should not depend on where you live and who sentenced you."

Click here to access the report and a related briefing paper.


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