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Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems? A Critical Review



[full article, abstract in English; abstract in Lithuanian] First experiments with electronic monitoring emerged in Europe in the early 1990s. Within 15 years, the majority of countries in Europe reported having introduced electronic monitoring at least as pilot projects. The amazing dynamic rise of electronic monitoring in Europe may be explained by the commercial interests that become evident when looking at the activities of private companies selling the technique. Although electronic monitoring seems to have expanded in many countries, one has to realize its marginal role within the European sanctions systems compared to other sentencing or release options. On average, only about 3% of all probationary supervised persons were under electronic monitoring at the end of 2013. This article deals with questions regarding the impact of electronic monitoring on prison population rates and reduced reoffending, with net-widening effects and costs, essential rehabilitative support, human rights-based perspectives and the general (non)sense of electronic monitoring.
Kriminologijos studijos ISSN 2351-6097 eISSN 2538-8754
2018, vol. 6, pp. 58–77 DOI:
Electronic Monitoring in Europe –
a Panacea for Reforming Criminal
Sanctions Systems? A Critical Review
Frieder Dünkel
Prof. em. dr., Universität Greifswald, Rechts- und Staatswissenschaliche Fakultät,
Lehrstuhl für Kriminologie
Abstract. First experiments with electronic monitoring emerged in Europe in the early
1990s. Within 15 years, the majority of countries in Europe reported having introduced
electronic monitoring at least as pilot projects. e amazing dynamic rise of electronic
monitoring in Europe may be explained by the commercial interests that become
evident when looking at the activities of private companies selling the technique.
Although electronic monitoring seems to have expanded in many countries, one has
to realize its marginal role within the European sanctions systems compared to other
sentencing or release options. On average, only about 3% of all probationary supervised
persons were under electronic monitoring at the end of 2013. is article deals with
questions regarding the impact of electronic monitoring on prison population rates
and reduced reoending, with net-widening eects and costs, essential rehabilitative
support, human rights-based perspectives and the general (non)sense of electronic
Keywords: electronic monitoring, punishment, international standards, human rights,
criminal justice.
1. Introduction
e question of how to rehabilitate, control and supervise oenders eec-
tively in a community has been of major importance since the late 19th century,
Vilnius University Press
Received: 9/7/2018. Accepted: 10/8/2018
Copyright © 2018 Frieder Dünkel. Published by Vilnius University Press
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Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
when the search for alternatives to imprisonment caught the interest of crime
policymakers and the reformers of the criminal sanctions system. e German
Franz von Liszt inuenced the debate by particularly criticizing short-term
imprisonment. In consequence, during the rst half of the 20th century, nes
and probation or suspended prison sentences were found as an answer to cope
with increasing prison populations. e demand for more eective control of
oenders in the community was the side eect (Germ. Begleitmusik) of a puni-
tive turn in the 1980s and 1990s, characterized by Garland (2001) as the “cul-
ture of control.” e latest development in this direction was possible by new
surveillance techniques, rst in the form of radio frequency-based devices,
and more recently by using the GPS surveillance technique (see Haverkamp
2014). is area, being one of the most dynamic elds of criminal justice, de-
serves a critical review not only under the headline of modern penalty but
also with regards to criminological evidence on what works and how; tradition
penal values, such as proportionality and human dignity, must be assessed in
view of this as well. e present paper is based on some of the results of an EU-
funded project on the “Creativity and Eectiveness in the Use of Electronic
Monitoring as an Alternative to Imprisonment in EU Member States” (Grant
No. JUST/2013/JPEN/AG/4510) covering Belgium, England/Wales, Germany,
the Netherlands and Scotland (see Hucklesby et al. 2016) as well as on a larger
European comparative project covering 12 additional countries looking not
only at the crime policy developments but the human rights-based perspec-
tives concerning electronic monitoring as well (see Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017).
2. The rise of electronic monitoring
in European sanctions systems
First experiments with electronic monitoring (EM) in Europe emerged in
the early 1990s in England and Wales, followed by small-scaled projects in
Sweden and the Netherlands (see Nellis 2014). Within 15 years, a majority of
countries in Europe (27) reported having introduced EM at least as pilot pro-
jects, whereas Nellis (2014, p.490) found only 12 countries that had made no
eorts yet to introduce it (Italy, Greece and Lithuania amongst them), which,
in the meantime, have also had some small projects or experiences in the eld
(see Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017). e Council of Europe’s SPACE II-statistics
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– although not always complete or accurate because of the reporting errors
by some member states – indicate that EM does not exist in only 12 out of 47
jurisdictions (see Aebi, Chopin 2016, p. 18 f.). However, again, Greece and
Italy are mentioned as countries where EM is not existing as a disposal, which
is wrong.
Looking at numbers of EM-cases on a given day or per year seems much
more dicult, as the SPACE-statistics report only about 21 out of 35 “user”-
countries. Again, we can observe how the shortcomings of statistical data
become evident, if, for example, 271 cases dated to December 31, 2014 are
included in the list of counted instances, whereas our national report in the
abovementioned EU-project revealed a little less than 14 000 cases (probably
due to non-reported cases of stand-alone EM-measures outside the probation
service). Renzema and Mayo-Wilson (2005, p. 215) reported an estimated
number of 100 000 persons electronically supervised in the US for 2003 and a
daily population of about 9 000 in Europe, of the 77% in the UK. Since then, a
further considerable rise of EM has taken place.
is amazing dynamic rise of EM in Europe may be explained by the com-
mercial interests that become evident when looking at the activities of private
companies selling the technology required for conducting EM. Insofar a new
quality has emerged in the penal law (similar to the rise of the prison industry
by privatizing imprisonment in the US) that endangers the role of the state.
Traditionally, the state/government formulates the aims of punishments and
the ways to enforce them. In some areas, private entrepreneurs have come into
“the game,” for example, in juvenile welfare and justice. At least in the conti-
nental European jurisdictions, these “players” are non-prot organizations (of-
ten nanced mainly by the communities). is changes with the involvement
of the prot-oriented private sector, as the advertisement of new sanctions and
measures is now proactively made by private companies, which also impose
pressure on governments. Lithuania is a recent example of that (see Sakalaus-
kas in Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017): the government rented a certain number of
devices and had to pay a considerable amount of funds regardless of how much
use was made of these devices by the judges. us, in the rst years of use, a
case under EM was more expensive than a place in prison. e government
had to advertise a greater use of EM in order to lower the costs-per-case of EM.
A similar reluctance of the judiciary and a low acceptance of EM can be
Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
seen in Greece, where again the government has attempted to inuence the
judges to use EM more extensively (Pitsela in Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017).
Although EM seems to expand in many countries, one has to realize its
marginal role within the European sanctions systems compared to other sen-
tencing or release options. On average, only about 3% of all probationary su-
pervised persons were – according to the SPACE-statistics – under EM at the
end of 2013 (see Figure 1). Even when considering high underreporting rates
in some countries, it becomes clear that the amount of public and governmen-
tal interest in EM contrasts very strongly to its actual importance in practice.
Again, this may only be explained by the pressure and publicity exercised by
private companies selling the technology and services of EM.
Reference: Aebi, M. F. & Chopin, J. (2014). SPACE II – Council of Europe Annual Penal Statisti-
cs: Space II survey 2013. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, Table 1,1, p. 17–18.
FIGURE 1. e proportion of electronic monitoring on all persons serving commu-
nity sanctions and measures (%, stock on December 31, 2013)
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3. Aims and target groups of electronic monitoring –
diverse approaches in the European context
e somewhat “victory” of EM in the “penal eld” (Page 2013) has much
to do with the emergence of surveillance technologies in general (Nellis 2017)
and the privatization of penal social control in particular. e causes for intro-
ducing or expanding EM in most countries were the high pressure of prison
overcrowding during the 1980s and 1990s. erefore, in many countries, the
dominating aim was to cope with increasing prison population rates. But the
rehabilitation goal was of major importance as well, in particular in Scandina-
via, Austria, the Netherlands and other countries that emphasize the impor-
tance of the probation service and use electronic monitoring as an additional
form of controlling rehabilitative directives or supporting parole schemes in
collaboration with correctional and probation services.
In contrast, England and Wales – and more recently Belgium – have intro-
duced EM as a stand-alone measure without any involvement of social work-
ers. EM represents only a short-term restriction of liberty punishment without
any rehabilitative eorts or programs in these cases.
In some countries, the new technology of GPS-tracking oered the possi-
bility of surveillance in order to protect (possible) victims by establishing “in-
clusion” and “exclusion zones” for the oenders, which is now used on a very
limited scale, e.g., in England/Wales, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
A very dierent approach is to focus on particularly high-risk oenders,
even if they have fully served their sentences. ese men and women should
be free, but society does not accept them being released without supervision.
Some countries, such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland,
have introduced a probation-like penal measure, the so-called supervision of
conduct order, which allows supervision and EM in order to protect the soci-
ety from severe re-oending. In the Netherlands, the respective legal base is a
suspended treatment measure called TBS. In Germany, the respective law re-
form of 2011 was the direct result of the jurisprudence of the European Court
of Human Rights, which, in 2009, sentenced Germany for illegal punishment
by the security measure of preventive detention (a measure for dangerous of-
fenders to be served aer having fully served the determinate prison sentence,
for details see Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017), and which allows for an EM-super-
Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
vision of these oenders. In France, the focus is more on terrorist oenders
and their social environment, a question which– aer the events of December
2016 in Berlin – has also been discussed in Germany and was enshrined in
the Police Laws of the federal states in 2018 (a supervision for the so-called
endangering persons,” regularly from an Islamic background).
4. International standards and human rights
issues, particularly recommendation 4 (2004)
of the Council of Europe
Human rights standards concerning the criminal justice system had tra-
ditionally been developed with regards to imprisonment. Standard minimum
rules for prisoners had rst been issued by the UN (1955), and the so-called
Mandela Rules (2015) were just recently adopted as a modern and actualized
version of these standards. e Council of Europe, in 1973 and 1978, followed
with its European Prison Rules, which have been updated in 2006 (see, for a
comprehensive view of European Prison Law, van Zyl Smit, Snacken 2009). In
the late 1980s, some evidence came up that human rights violations were not
limited to sanctions depriving persons of their liberty but that the so-called
community sanctions were also bearing the risk of human rights violations.
Humiliating and stigmatizing forms of community service were just one exam-
ple. It is evident that intrusive measures, such as electronic monitoring, have
a special potential for human rights infringements. In 1992, the Council of
Europe adopted Recommendation (92) 2 on Community Sanctions and Meas-
ures, a general outline on how to use and organize this area of sentencing (the
correspondent UN-based rules were the so-called Tokyo-Rules from 1990).
Recently, more specic Recommendations – on early/conditional release (Rec.
[2003] 23), on probation, the Probation Rules (Rec [2010] 1), and, nally, on
electronic monitoring (Rec. 2014) 4 – have been issued.
e following remarks concentrate on these Recommendations on elec-
tronic monitoring, however not without citing two important regulations con-
tained in the 2010 Probation Rules: it is stated in No. 57 that “when electronic
monitoring is used as part of supervision, it shall be combined with interven-
tions designed to bring about rehabilitation and to support desistance.” EM
is, therefore, brought in line with the Council of Europe’s orientation toward
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the rehabilitation and social reintegration of oenders. Furthermore, No. 58
of the Probation Rules refers specically to the principle of proportionality by
stating that “the level of technological surveillance shall not be greater than
is required in an individual case, taking into consideration the seriousness of
the oence committed and the risks posed to community safety” (Council of
Europe 2010).
e aim of rehabilitation is taken up in the EM-Rules of 2014, e.g., in Rule
8: when considering the possibility of EM as a stand-alone measure, Rule No.
8 says: “Electronic monitoring may be used as a stand-alone measure in order
to ensure supervision and reduce crime over the specic period of its execu-
tion. In order to seek longer term desistance from crime it should be combined
with other professional interventions and supportive measures aimed at the
social reintegration of oenders.” In the commentary, the empirical evidence
on what we know about EM and its possible eects and desistance from crime
is outlined (see Part 7 below).
e EM-Recommendation (2014) 4 emphasizes that the “use, as well as the
types, duration and modalities of execution of electronic monitoring in the
framework of the criminal justice shall be regulated by law” (Basic Principle
No. 1). is is not self-evident, as our study has also revealed that the condi-
tions and target groups are not clearly described by law in many countries.
is is important, as in its several rules, the Recommendation “warns” the
users that EM is an intrusive measure that can violate basic human rights and
therefore is to be applied cautiously and with respect to possible human rights
infringements (including data protection rights, which particularly in Ger-
many are of major importance, see Dünkel et al. in Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017,
p.11 .). e EM-Recommendation, therefore, is a further good document
stating that crime policy should be moderate in imposing intrusive sanctions
or measures. e Rules specically address the problem that EM may contrib-
ute to an unnecessary and therefore disproportionate net-widening if it is used
a measure for avoiding pre-trial detention (see Rules No. 2 and 16). If there is
no real risk of escape, pre-trail detention would not be legitimate; therefore,
EM is also not justiable. If there is a strong risk of escape, EM would not be
appropriate in hindering a person from disappearing. Practical experience in
many countries demonstrates that these restrictions against imposing pre-trail
detention (and EM) are not strictly observed. erefore, one could assume
Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
that an “illegitimate” use of EM is widespread if it is used in this eld. Coun-
tries who follow these considerations logically do not nd any suitable cases
for the application of EM (see, e.g., Germany in the Hesseproject, or Swit-
zerland). In Switzerland– as far as can be seen – since 2011, only two cases
of replacing pre-trial detention with EM have been registered (see Dünkel,
iele, Treig 2017).
e issue of proportionality is further addressed in the Basic principles 4.
and 5., when stating that EM “shall be proportionate in terms of duration and
intrusiveness to the seriousness of the oence alleged or committed” (No. 4) or
that EM “shall not be executed in a manner restricting the rights and freedoms
of a suspect or an oender to a greater extent than provided for by the decision
imposing it” (No. 5). e “rights of families and third parties in the place to
which the suspect or oender is conned” must be considered (No. 6).
5. Expanding social control – net-widening
or reducing prison population rates?
One of the crucial questions for empirical research is to what extent the
aim of reducing prison population rates has been reached, and to what extent
EM is only another alternative in the list of alternatives. In that case, it can be
an additional element in the scope of community sanctions, intensifying so-
cial control beyond the “normal” probation work. Such intensication may be
justied if the traditional probation work and supervision was insucient and
if evidence shows that an additional need for supervision and control of this
(more technical) kind would be helpful. Advertisers of EM promote the idea
that EM helps unstructured and instable oenders to adapt to a more struc-
tured daily routine, which indeed may be true in individual cases. But what
happens aer the (mostly short) period of EM, if the devices are removed?
In our study on 17 European countries (see Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017), we
could only rarely and, in such a case, to a very limited extent nd “indicators
for the reductionist potential of EM concerning prison population rates. A
good example are the Netherlands. e “dramatic” decline of the prison popu-
lation rate (from 128 per 100 000 inhabitants in 2006 to about 85 in 2012 and
53 in 2015, see Dünkel 2017) took place before EM got quantitatively impor-
tant. e increase of numbers of monitored oenders and the average time
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of about 4 months under EM may have somehow contributed to the further
reduction of the prison population since 2012, but the major part apparently
has to do with the decline of registered (serious) oending and the strong em-
phasis given to other sentencing options than EM-programs – the suspension
of (conditional) sentences (without EM) in particular.
On any given day, Germany has no more than about 70 serious oend-
ers under GPS monitoring (as an additional control element to the probation
service aer having fully served a long-term prison sentence or being re-
leased from preventive detention or a psychiatric security measure, see Dün-
kel, iele, Treig 2017a) and another 80 oenders under “regular” EM in one
of the 16 Federal states (Hesse), a state which happens to be the only one to
practice EM in this form. e question of reducing prison population rates by
introducing EM has never been an issue in Germany but with regards to spe-
cic sentencing strategies in the area of traditional community sanctions. As
in the Netherlands, the decline in registered (serious) crime rates is the main
reason for the decline in the German prison population since the mid-2000s
(see Dünkel 2017).
In our comparative study on 17 jurisdictions in Europe (see Dünkel, iele,
Treig 2017), we found indicators for inuences on the size of prison popula-
tion rates only in countries that explicitly provide legal safeguards to really
replace terms of imprisonment by EM-supervision, in particular if the proba-
tion services are involved preventing excessive net-widening structures. is
safeguard does not work in England and Wales, where the probation services
are widely excluded, and where the private companies providing the technol-
ogy are also responsible for executing the sanctions.
Good examples for avoiding net-widening are Austria, Finland, Sweden,
and to some extent, the Netherlands (see above).
In Austria, EM is provided for prisoners during their last stage of impris-
onment, who can serve their sentence in house arrest. In Finland, EM, as a
judicial sanction, is only provided if nes and community service seem to be
inappropriate; in other words, EM is the very last resort before imprisonment.
Also, in the case of early release from prison, the Finnish legislator follows a
real reductionist approach by giving prisoners the opportunity to serve up to
six months before receiving a “regular” early release (a kind of quasi-automatic
parole). erefore, prison capacities are saved in these cases. However, Finland
Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
also has some doubtful practices that can be judged as a net-widening strategy.
Since the past few years, prisoners in open prison facilities wear electronic de-
vices (when they go out for work or leisure time activities) in order to unbur-
den sta members from controlling their activities. is is a clear additional
(and, in most cases, probably unnecessary) social control measure.
Also, in Sweden, the legislator has emphasized that EM should only replace
unconditional prison sentences and no other alternatives. Insofar one could
think of EM as contributing to the recent decline of the prison population.
However, only short-term imprisonment of up to 6 months is considered, and,
in practice, the periods of EM are regularly very short: 50% of EM sanctions
during 2013–2015 have replaced a prison sentence of up to one months, an-
other 30% – of up to 3 months, and only 20% – of 3–6 months (see Yngborn
in Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017). e Swedish policy can only be understood
in terms of the long tradition of imposing short-term unconditional prison
sentences for relatively minor crimes, such as drunk driving. In Germany, the
legislator – already in 1969 and by a major law reform – has replaced short-
term prison sentences with nes. EM does therefore not play an important role
in Germany. In Sweden, changes have taken place in sentencing by expanding
nes; therefore, the importance of EM is little.
One other critical question relates to the target groups of EM. e group of
dangerous” oenders are in the scope of electronic monitoring only in Ger-
many, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In all other countries, EM is
used for middle-range crimes and low-risk oenders. is raises the question
of whether the traditional and less intrusive forms of supervision and con-
trol by the probation agencies are not sucient or if other community sanc-
tions and measures are less “credible.” e latter seems to be characterizing the
English sentencing policy under the so-called “punitive turn.” Indeed, the call
for more “credible” and “tough” alternatives has opened the oor to expand
technical solutions and to exclude the traditional probation services. To some
extent, English probation services have contributed to this development by
categorically refusing to take part in any EM-based sanctions (see Nellis 2017).
e core question of taking the principle of proportionality seriously re-
veals very dierent approaches in Europe and oen within the crime policy of
a single given country.
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In Belgium, for example, EM is used in dierent forms. In the case of long-
er prison sentences of more than 3 years, EM can be used the prepare release
by serving the sentence at home for up to 6 months before following a regular
parole release, thus replacing a denite prison term with EM. Probation ser-
vices are involved in these cases, and EM supports their work. On the other
hand, a new policy came into eect just recently that allows a stand-alone EM
supervision of oenders sentenced with up to one year of imprisonment with-
out any support from the probation services and without any regulation based
on which other community services should or could be prioritized.
In Denmark, the back-door-strategy to serve the last 6 months of a prison
sentence is a reductionist measure, whereas EM, as an immediate community
sanction, is probably more oen used more as an alternative to other commu-
nity sanctions than to imprisonment.
France uses a lot of dierent EM options; again, only a back-door-strategy
of an earlier release combined with EM has a potentially reductionist eect.
Although positive numbers are increasing in this case, the prison system suf-
fers from one of the highest overcrowding rates in Europe.
One could extend the number of examples, but so far one may conclude
the following:
that the introduction and expansion of EM in Europe did not have any
major impact on prison population rates and, in most cases, failed to
resolve the problems of overcrowding (e.g., England/Wales, France, Ita-
ly, Poland and, at least until recently, Belgium);
that in many cases it just formed an additional or intensied form of
social control;
that it contributed in some countries to eliminating or diminishing the
importance of the traditional social support schemes, such as probati-
on services, by establishing EM as a stand-alone sanction (in England/
Wales, Belgium or Scotland, with a reverse trend in crime policy in the
last case);
that in other cases, it became part of a rehabilitation-oriented commu-
nity sanction under the dominant role of the probation or correctional
services (Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland or,
increasingly, Scotland).
Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
6. Does electronic monitoring save costs
for the criminal justice system?
Closely related to the question of whether EM really contributes to a re-
ductionist approach concerning the use of imprisonment is the question of
costs. Is EM saving costs as widely advertised by its promoters, in particular
the private companies selling the technology?
One, at rst glance, convincing argument is that the daily costs of EM are
far smaller than a day costs in prison. All reports of our European comparative
project on 17 countries demonstrate that the daily costs of EM vary consider-
ably, between some 5€ in Poland and about 100€ in Denmark or Norway, and
that they are indeed lower than imprisonment. However, this calculation is
only valid if (1) EM is really replacing imprisonment and (2) a cheaper alterna-
tive, such as simple early release measures, probation or parole (without EM)
are not available or appropriate.
e second consideration – whether any other options of sanctions could
be used – is oen neglected. One of the fatal consequences in this direction
is the implementation of EM as a stand-alone sanction (e.g., in Belgium or
England and Wales) for low-risk oenders. It is evident that other sentencing
options, such as nes or community work orders, have not been suciently
taken into consideration. EM then takes the place of a cultural gap in develop-
ing “creative” appropriate community sanctions or measures. erefore, it is
somehow tragic that the EU-funded EM-project referred in this paper (see un-
der Part 1 above) ran under the heading of “Creativity […] in the Use of EM”
and generally excluded the whole range of criminal sanctions, where more
creativity could have come to dierent solutions than to thinking about how
to increase the use of EM.
Having presented these mixed results, the main research question remains
open – could EM also contribute to reducing reoending and promoting so-
cial integration?
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7. Criminological theory and electronic monitoring –
why should electronic monitoring reduce crime?
From a theoretical point of view, one must dierentiate and isolate EM
as an integrated rehabilitative measure that cannot be easily evaluated, as it
is combined with the rehabilitative work of the correctional and probation
services. e “plus”-eect of EM is dicult to isolate. However, one could
build comparable groups of probationers with and without EM even in a ran-
domized experiment.
EM, as a stand-alone measure, could be evaluated more easily. e prob-
lem is that the theoretical assumptions are not really convincing: why should
EM reduce crime in the cases where no other social support is provided? e
only theoretical aspect is that the oender calculates that they will be detected
when reoending and that they do not want be moved to a prison population.
is is the classic question of general prevention (or deterrence), which can-
not be addressed exhaustively here (see, in general, Nagin 1998; Pratt, Cul-
len 2005; Pratt et al. 2006). In general, one can say that getting-tough-policy
strategies (more police density and prosecution, increasing incarceration rates
and the severity of punishment) have the lowest eects on crime rates (Pratt,
Cullen 2005). Deterrence research dierentiates between the perceived sever-
ity of punishment in case of reoending and the certainty of being detected
and reconvicted. It can be taken as a general validated result that certainty has
a more important deterrent eect than the severity element. In general, crimi-
nal law and crime policy factors, as well as the sentencing practice, are of less
importance than other social environment factors, such as social bonds etc.
Pratt et al. (2006) reviewed 40 micro-level studies of deterrence and compared
the factors of severity, certainty of punishment, deterrence theory composites
and non-legal sanctions (loss of working place, negative consequences in the
social environment). Severity and the deterrence composites factors had the
lowest mean size eects compared to the factor certainty and, in particular, to
non-legal factors. If further variables from other criminological theories are
considered, such as self-control, peer-inuences and the like, the strength of
deterrence variables is further weakened. e factor “certainty” seems to have
dierential eects and is of more importance in the case of white-collar crime
and of higher-level educated persons.
Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
In taking these results into account, one may expect some deterrent eect
of EM, as it increases the probability of being detected, in particular while
being under GPS tracking. On the other hand, there are also negative eects,
such as the stigmatization of wearing devices that persons in the public might
recognize, or other restrictions of daily life that might endanger the compli-
ance. For example, it was reported that the compliance for EM replacing pre-
trial detention is lower because the time under EM, as an alternative to pre-
trial detention, does not count for a prison sentence the oender may later
receive in the court judgement.
Looking at the evaluation research on EM, Renzema and Mayo-Wilson
come to the conclusion that EM may suppress the committing of crimes dur-
ing the period under supervision but– with few exceptions – not beyond it
(Renzema, Mayo-Wilson 2005, p.231; Renzema 2013, p.258 ., 260 f.). Stud-
ies by Canadian scholars revealed that there was no reduction of crime for
electronically supervised probationers compared to regular probationers su-
pervised by conventional surveillance techniques (Wallace-Capretta, Roberts
2013, p.51). Furthermore, the said scholars they state that “[a] signicant pro-
portion of the oenders who had been placed on EM had low-risk scores, and
may well have been managed equally successful” by conventional probation
supervision, which raises the question of net-widening (ibid, p.51).
e result that reoending during the EM-period remains the exception is
consistent with the deterrence perspective under the realistic presumption that
EM increases the risk of detection when being under electronic surveillance.
However, as Renzema concludes also in his recent evaluation report, “EM is
now mainly about punishment on the cheap, not rehabilitation. Yet, in the at-
tempt to deter and punish humanely and inexpensive, most users of EM are
not even trying to use it as a tool for rehabilitation” (Renzema 2013, p.266).
e studies existing so far for evaluating the eects of EM do not show any
superior eect on preventing reoending better than other traditional com-
munity sanctions, but quite a lot of problems in other areas of daily life (stress
in the families, EM as a serious burden, possibly stigmatizing in the outside
community etc.). is corresponds also with the evaluation of high-risk of-
fenders under EM that was conducted by German scholars (see Bräuchle in
Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017).
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Another more favorable study was a Swedish project evaluated by Marklund
and Holmberg (2009). However, the positive outcomes for EM-clients have to
be seen in the Swedish rehabilitation model, as EM is embedded in the whole
range of rehabilitative support (employment, housing and other probation and
community services; see also Renzema 2013, p.259; and Wennerberg 2013,
p.121 .). Another important research result is that EM is more promising
for medium and high-risk oenders than for low-risk oenders, where no sig-
nicant reduction of reoending could be found (see Renzema, Mayo-Wilson
2005; Renzema 2013). As the commentary to the EM-Rules states,
Location monitoring technology cannot in itself bring about a change of attitude
or behaviour in the way that a number of probation initiatives and programmes
dealing with oending behaviour are designed to do. Some evidence suggests
that wearing a monitoring device can have a ‘shaming eect’ but by itself this is
insucient to bring about long-term change. If reintegration and desistance are
to be achieved electronic monitoring must be used in conjunction with measures
which can accomplish this, tailored to individual oenders’ circumstances (drug
treatment, alcohol treatment, anger management, employment skills training,
helping with nding jobs and shelter, etc. (Council of Europe 2014, Commentary
to Rule 8, referring to Wennerberg 2013, see above).
is result is also underlined by a recent study conducted in France by
Henneguelle, Monnery, Kensey (2016). ey compared EM-cases (all 580 cas-
es in the years 2000–2003) with possibly eligible prisoners 5 years aer release.
e EM-cases showed a 14–15% lower recidivism rate than the ex-prisoners
group. However, under control of a rather strong selection bias (EM-cases
were on average lower-risk cases, more than the ex-prisoners’ group), only 6–7
percentage points of dierence remained. e dierential analysis showed that
the main reasons for a lower recidivism rate of the EM group was that they
were strongly supported by home visits of probation ocers and employment
programs that they had to participate in. Unfortunately, the study did not com-
pare the alternative of suspended sentences with probationary supervision but
without EM. e data indicate that the factors of probationary and other sup-
port probably had the major impact on reduced reoending rates; therefore,
it could be said that it is not EM but just the traditional care and supervision
in the context of suspended sentences that make the dierence in incarcera-
Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
tion rates. is is plausible because the length of EM supervision on average
was just 73 days (median: two months, see Henneguelle, Monnery, Kensey
2016, p.650 .), and there were no dierences in recidivism in the rst and
the later terms of supervision. During the later development of EM in France
(aer 2003), the practice of home visits almost totally disappeared, and the
length of EM declined to less than 50 days in average, which might further
undermine the claimed positive eects of EM (Henneguelle, Monnery, Kensey
2016, p.655). So, the French data give no evidence that EM is superior to tra-
ditional forms of supervision by the probation service, although it may possess
a potential in being superior to custody. e consequences with regards to the
principle of proportionality are discussed in Part 8.
ere is, however, some evidence (also in the French study) that there might
be cases, in particular those of younger oenders, where EM could contribute to
establishing daily routines and structures and could therefore help stabilize the
lives of oenders who would otherwise not have completed their rehabilitative
programs and who thereby benet from them. is is somehow conrmed by
the German project in Hesse, where, in individual cases, EM serves as a control
that the supervised persons follow the activity plan agreed with the probation
services when they go out (see Rehbein in Dünkel, iele, Treig 2017).
8. Perspectives for a proportionate and human
rights-based use of electronic monitoring
In summary, it is clear that EM is not a panacea – neither for reducing pris-
on population rates nor for reducing reoending rates or promoting the social
integrating of oenders. It is the task of critical empirical research to explore
under what conditions and with whom EM can play a constructive role in ar-
riving at the aims described by its promoters. Beyond empirical evidence, the
human rights approach has largely been neglected. EM is an intrusive measure
and must be justiable against less intrusive measures or sanctions. erefore,
policymakers should use EM only in cases where other community options are
not sucient or eective for reaching the abovementioned goals of preventing
crime and promoting social reintegration.
A concrete policy recommendation would be to implement EM only in
cases where (1) otherwise imprisonment would be unavoidable and (2) other
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community options would not be sucient. e second part of the conditions
under which EM can be acceptable is mostly neglected; therefore, a strong
overuse of EM can be identied. e issue is not in why EM is “underused”
and how to “further develop its potential,” which can be seen as the underlying
research question of the abovementioned EU-funded project on “Creativity
[…] in the Use of EM […]” (Hucklesby et al. 2016), but how it can be reduced
to a justiable extend. Germany insofar should not be stigmatized as an out-
sider who has to reconsider its policy, but instead be seen as a country that has
taken the principle of proportionality seriously as required per international
standards and recommendations. A few countries in our research are in the
same line, however not consequently enough in all aspects (see the example
of Finland above).
If the principle of proportionality is taken seriously, EM must be used only
in the few cases where no other alternative to custody is available or appropri-
ate. e result in the Federal state of Hesse in Germany (trying to follow this
approach) is that about 80 oenders out of 16 000 oenders under regular
probationary supervision qualify for EM (without having excluded the net-
widening eects in all cases).
Empirical evidence furthermore reveals that EM can only be promising in
reducing reoending if the electronic surveillance is embedded in the work
of probation and aercare services under the rehabilitative goal, as practiced
in Sweden and the Netherlands (and, in a few cases, in Germany; see Dünkel,
iele, Treig 2017a and Part 7 above). As a stand-alone sanction for low-risk
oenders, EM is the policy and practice in England and Belgium, and there-
fore should denitely be rejected.
ere is one other group of cases where EM can be justied. Again, Ger-
many uses this option in a very restrictive manner for oenders who, for cer-
tain reasons (end of sentence, constitutional grounds, in particular – a dispro-
portionate length of executing a preventive or psychiatric sentencing option),
have to be released but who present a special and concrete danger for the life
or health of others: the supervision of conduct order for “dangerous” oend-
ers aer having fully served their sentence (France and the Netherlands have
similar options in their law). Important is the quantitative dimension. Out of
about 37 000 oenders under supervision of conduct orders (see DBH 2016),
about 60–70 are under electronic supervision, which may be justiable for the
Frieder Dünkel. Electronic Monitoring in Europe – a Panacea for Reforming Criminal Sanctions Systems?
sake of safety in the general society. e “Rechtsstaat,” however, must always
be keen to provide regular reviews with regards to this kind of surveillance.
e famous Dutch penologist, Constantijn Kelk, has always emphasized that
prisoners, too (and today one must add: those released but under intensive
supervision like EM), are “Rechtsburger” with their own human rights (“legal
citizens,” see van Zyl Smit, Snacken 2009, 69 ., which became the jurispru-
dence of the German Federal Constitutional Court since 1972).
Although Germany may be seen as an exception in this reductionist and
human rights-oriented approach in using EM, it is worth to emphasize such
penal values as the principle of proportionality in times where fashionable
technical “solutions” claim to be promising perspectives.
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Elektroninė stebėsena Europoje – panacėja reformuojant
baudžiamųjų sankcijų sistemas? Kritinė apžvalga
Frieder Dünkel
Pirmieji bandymai taikyti elektroninę stebėseną (monitoringą) Europoje prasidėjo pra-
ėjusio amžiaus dešimtojo dešimtmečio pradžioje. Pastaruosius 15 metų dauguma Euro-
pos šalių skelbia taikančios elektroninę stebėseną ar bent jau bandomąsias jos versijas.
Tokį stulbinamą elektroninės stebėsenos pakilimą Europoje galima aiškinti komerciniu
interesu, kuris tampa akivaizdus, žvelgiant į privačių įmonių, parduodančių įrangą, vei-
klą. Nors atrodytų, kad elektroninė stebėsena paplito daugelyje šalių, būtina suprasti,
kad ji Europos sankcijų sistemose atlieka nereikšmingą vaidmenį palyginti su kitomis
bausmių ar paleidimo iš laisvės atėmimo vietų alternatyvomis. 2013m. duomenimis,
vidutiniškai tik apie 3proc. visų probuojamų asmenų buvo stebimi elektroniškai. Šiame
straipsnyje nagrinėjami klausimai, susiję su elektroninės stebėsenos įtaka kalėjimų po-
puliacijos dydžiui ir sumažėjusiam pakartotinių nusikaltimų skaičiui, su besiplečiančio
stebėsenos tinklo pasekmėmis ir kaštais, būtina reabilitacine pagalba, žmogaus teisėmis
grįstomis perspektyvomis ir apskritai elektroninės stebėsenos (ne)prasmingumu.
Pagrindiniai žodžiai: elektroninė stebėsena (monitoringas), bausmė, tarptautiniai
standartai, žmogaus teisės, kriminalinė justicija.
Full-text available
Der Beitrag fasst die Entwicklung der Elektronischen Überwachung (EÜ) von Straftätern in Europa zusammen und plädiert für einen restriktiven Umgang mit dieser eingriffsintensiven Sanktionsform. EÜ ist nur zulässig, wenn weniger eingriffsintensive Kontrollformen nicht ausreichend erscheinen und Freiheitsentzug dadurch tatsächlich vermieden werden kann. Zudem ist die spezialpräventive Wirkung von EÜ im Hinblick auf Rückfallvermeidung empirisch nicht belegt.
Full-text available
Prison population rates in many European countries have increased until the beginning of the 21st century. Prison overcrowding and questions around the ‘New Punitiveness’ have dominated the discourse. Recently a remarkable drop in prison population rates can be observed, in particular in Central and East European countries (for example, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states), but also in West European jurisdictions (the Netherlands, Germany and, in the last few years, also Spain). Explanations are not always easy and in most cases this is not the result of a strategic policy but more likely of a sharp decrease in (serious) crime rates. The paper discusses the developments in a European comparative perspective and explores the potentials for a further reduction in prison population rates.
Full-text available
Electronic monitoring (EM) in Germany is used only exceptionally in cases of high-risk offenders released from prison after fully having served a prison sentence or after release from the preventive detention measure (added to a prison sentence in cases of “dangerous” violent or sex offenders). About 70 cases on a daily total of more than 36,000 supervision of conduct cases are under global positioning system (GPS)-EM. Only in one federal state (Hesse) EM on radio frequency technology is also used to avoid pre-trial detention or in regular probation/parole cases. Numbers remain very low also in this context. EM is always combined with a probation or supervision of conduct order, which means that it is embedded in the rehabilitative work of the probation services. The German judiciary and crime policy are very reluctant to expand EM, as there is no pressure from the prison system (no overcrowding) and the “ordinary” probation service (without EM) works quite efficiently.
Full-text available
Many countries have recently adopted electronic monitoring (EM) as an alternative sentence in order to reduce incarceration while maintaining public safety. However, the empirical evidence on the effects of EM on recidivism (relative to prison) is very scarce worldwide. In this paper, we adress this debated question using quasi-experimental data from France. Our empirical strategy exploits the incremental roll-in of electronic monitoring in France, which started as a local experiment in four courts in 2000-2001, and was later adopted by more and more courts (2002-2003). Our IV estimates show that fully converting prison sentences into electronic monitoring has long-lasting beneficial effects on recidivism, with estimated reductions in probability of reconviction of 6-7 percentage points (9-11%) after five years. There is also evidence that, in case of recidivism, EM leads to less serious offenses compared to prison. These beneficial effects are particularly strong on electronically monitored offenders who received control visits at home from correctional officers, were obliged to work while under EM, and had already experienced prison before. This pattern suggests that both rehabilitation and deterrence are important factors in reducing long-term recidivism, and that electronic monitoring can be a very cost-effective alternative to short prison sentences. However, the massive development of EM in France in recent years, with shorter and less intensive supervision, may reduce its effectiveness.
The macro-level approach reemerged as a salient criminological paradigm in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Prompted by new theories and reformulations of existing ones, over 200 empirical studies explored ecological correlates of crime. Few efforts have been made, however, to "make sense" of this literature. A "meta-analysis" was undertaken to determine the relative effects of macro-level predictors of crime. Indicators of "concentrated disadvantage" (e.g., racial heterogeneity, poverty, and family disruption) are among the strongest and most stable predictors. Except for incarceration, variables indicating increased use of the criminal justice system (e.g., policing and gettough policy effects) are among the weakest. Across all studies, social disorganization and resource/economic deprivation theories receive strong empirical support; anomie/strain, social support/social altruism, and routine activity theories receive moderate support; and deterrence/rational choice and subcultural theories receive weak support.
The electronic monitoring (EM) of offenders, mostly using radio frequency (RF) technology to enforce home confinement, has been practiced in Europe for a quarter century. At least twenty seven countries make use it, at a range of points in the penal process. More seem likely to adopt it in the future. Few countries use it on a very large scale, compared to prisons and other community sanctions. Nowhere has it had a transformative effect on penal practice, although some countries have used it more wisely than others. In Western Europe, Germany has been the most reluctant user of RF EM, while the Scandinavian countries, Denmark especially, have arguably made the most creative use of RF EM in the context of their conditional prison sentences, to augment existing support and rehabilitation services for offenders. Some Eastern European and Balkan countries have sometimes used EM without the constraining effects of “probation values”. Pan–European attempts by the CEP (The European Probation Organisation) and the Council of Europe to shape and constrain the development of EM, given the perception that it could easily become a repressive technology, have been of some value. GPS tracking of high risk offenders now exists on a very small scale in a number of European countries, but government aspirations in England and Wales, which may or may not come to fruition, to develop a large scale GPS-based programme in the near future may signal the beginnings of an attempt to the use EM in more penally transformative ways, although it is probation rather than prison use which may be diminished as a result. The conclusion suggests that EM should be understood as a form of e-governance, that it should be theorized in terms of the “network society” and that its expansion is an expression of neoliberal penality.
Electronic monitoring has become an integral part of the criminal justice process in England and Wales. Since the first trials in the 1980s the range of applications of electronic monitoring and the number of offenders subject to it have increased. Knowledge about the impact of electronic monitoring on offenders is limited and crucial questions about its effect on offending and desistance remain unanswered. This article addresses these questions by reviewing evidence from a study that interviewed offenders subject to electronically monitored curfew orders. It suggests that for some offenders curfew orders reduce offending and contribute to desistance by addressing levels of social capital in two ways. First, by decreasing levels of anti-social capital by reducing offenders' links with situations, people, places and networks correlated with their offending. Second, by improving levels of pro-social capital by encouraging offenders to connect or re-connect with influences linked with desistance such as family and employment. Curfew orders can also have negative impacts on pro-social capital particularly by disrupting employment and family ties and responsibilities. This article concludes that curfew orders have the potential to play a positive and distinctive role in supporting desistance and complement work undertaken as part of the new community order.
Evidence for a substantial deterrent effect is much firmer than it was two decades ago. However, large gaps in knowledge on the links between policy actions and behavior make it difficult to assess the effectiveness of policy options for deterring crime. There are four major impediments. First, analyses must estimate not only short-term consequences but also calibrate long-term effects. Some policies that are effective in preventing crime in the short term may be ineffective or even criminogenic in the long run because they may erode the foundation of the deterrent effect-fear of stigmatization. Second, knowledge about the relationship of sanction risk perceptions to policy is virtually nonexistent; such knowledge would be invaluable in designing effective crime-deterrent policies. Third, estimates of deterrent effects based on data from multiple governmental units measure a policy's average effectiveness across unit. It is important to understand better the sources of variation in response across place and time. Fourth, research on the links between intended and actual policy is fragmentary; a more complete understanding of the technology of sanction generation is necessary for identifying the boundaries of feasible policy.
The meta-analyses that have to date been published provide no support for the contention that the use of electronic monitoring (EM) in the home as a substitute for the whole or part of a prison sentence might produce any positive effect in relation to reoffending. The few studies that these analyses are based on have a number of shortcomings, however; several of them are very small, and they often fail to provide a complete description of the elements that electronic monitoring programmes include in addition to the monitoring itself. The study presented in this article has produced more positive results however. It focuses on the first 260 individuals to participate in an early release programme that included electronic monitoring in the home. This group was compared with a register-based control group. In addition to electronic monitoring by means of an ankle bracelet, it was obligatory for programme participants to have a daily occupation, which could be arranged by the prison and probation service if necessary, and they were subject to regular sobriety controls. The early release group reoffended to a significantly lesser extent than the control group did. It is not possible, however, to state to what extent this was a result of the electronic monitoring in the home or of the other elements included in the programme. When the group was trichotomised on the basis of levels of prior involvement in crime, it was found that the difference between the early release group and the control group was particularly large among those with intermediate levels of previous criminality.