Satellite Tracking of Offenders and Integrated Offender Management: A Local Case Study

Publication Date01 May 2016
The Howard Journal Vol55 No 1–2. May 2016 DOI: 10.1111/hojo.12156
ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 188–206
Satellite Tracking of Offenders and
Integrated Offender Management:
A Local Case Study
Kirsty Hudson is Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Trevor Jones is Professor
of Criminology, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
Abstract: This article reports findings from an evaluation of a Global Positioning
System (GPS) pilot that took place in the Cardiff Integrated Offender Management Unit
(IOMU). The evaluation was based primarily upon qualitative interviews with about half
of the tracked sample of offenders, plus interviews with key stakeholders from the IOMU,
police and courts. The findings revealed a general consensus of positive views from
both offenders and practitioners about the experience of GPS tracking. However, these
generally positive outcomes were clearly related to the voluntary and relatively targeted
nature of the pilot, which would be challenged if/when GPS tracking was introduced
more widely.
Keywords: GPS tracking; electronic monitoring (EM); Integrated Offender
Management (IOM); satellite tracking
This article describes a small evaluation study of a Global Positioning Sys-
tem (GPS) tracking pilot that took place in the Cardiff Integrated Offender
Management Unit (IOMU) between January and December 2012. GPS or
‘satellite tracking’ is a relative newcomer to the British penal landscape,
although the practice has been established for some time in parts of the
USA. Much of what is known about in the UK concerns electronic moni-
toring (EM) through the operation of curfews supported by ‘static’ radio
frequency (RF) tags. EM has been described by Nellis (2009) as a distinc-
tively new kind of ‘late modern’ penality, one whose primary characteristic
is surveillance rather than confinement. These kinds of argument apply
with even more force to satellite tracking that offers a degree of potential
surveillance of offenders’ movements previously unheard of in commu-
nity supervision. The aims of the current article are to help address the
current gap in empirical research about satellite tracking in the UK, and
explore some of the broader implications of the approach. The article
is divided into four main sections. The first provides a brief overview of
2016 The Howard League and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK
The Howard Journal Vol55 No 1–2. May 2016
ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 188–206
developments in EM in England and Wales, and summarises key themes in
extant research on EM and satellite tracking. The second summarises the
aims and methods of the current study. The third outlines the key findings
of the research; and the final section provides some reflections for future
directions in policy and practice.
Electronic Monitoring in England and Wales
Since the 1990s, EM of offenders has become an increasingly important
part of the criminal justice system in England and Wales.EM can be applied
at three points in the criminal justice system: as a condition of bail, as a
sentence of the court, and as a condition of release from prison. The
use of EM as a condition of bail was trialled in the late 1980s (Mair and
Nee 1990). The use of EM as a sentence of the court was introduced
EM-enforced curfew of two-twelve hours per day for up to six months, as
part of a community sentence. Between 1995 and 1997, there were Home
Office trials of about 300 such curfew orders in different parts of England
and Wales (Mair and Mortimer 1996). The use of EM was then extended
under Labour administrations, with expanding its use to fine defaulters
and young offenders, sanctioning the removal of the consent requirement,
and finally introducing the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme. The
HDC scheme provided for early release from prison for certain categories
of prisoners nearing the end of their sentence and willing to undergo EM-
enforced curfew. Since this time, there has been a substantial expansion of
the use of electronically monitored curfews, growing from 9,000 cases in
1999/2000 to 116,000 in 2010/11 (Gallagher 2011). EM curfews are now
one of twelve requirements of the generic community sentence (introduced
through the Criminal Justice Act 2003). As such, it can be used to support
other elements of an order (such as probation supervision or drug/alcohol
treatment) or as a sentence in its own right.
The majority of the use of EM in the UK (and in other parts of the world)
to date has involved RF curfew tagging that alerts supervising officials if
the offender moves beyond a certain distance from a base unit during
specified time periods. The subject of the curfew is required to wear a
tag, usually worn round the ankle or wrist, and have a monitoring unit
installed (usually in the home). These systems use a radio signal, and
the tag acts as a transmitter that communicates with the monitoring unit.
This, in turn, updates the authorities and ensures that the subject does
not breach his/her curfew by leaving home during a particular period
(Nellis 2009). Although more recently arrived in the UK, tracking via
active GPS has been established in the USA for many years (for example, it
was first implemented in Florida in 1997, see Bales et al. (2010)). This form
of EM can track offender location in ‘real time’ using global positioning
satellites. In ‘active’ GPS, offenders are actively monitored in real time, with
monitoring officials responding quickly to breaches of conditions. ‘Passive’
GPS stores data for a set period and transmits a summary of data to the
system, for retrospective review if necessary.
2016 The Howard League and John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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