Changes to electronic tagging needed to save money

15 September 2013

The organisation 'Policy Exchange' said that the current system was too expensive and had failed to show the hoped for reductions in re-offending.  It is their view that approximately £70 million would be saved if the tagging was carried out by police or probation instead of being contracted out to private companies such as G4S. 

The report 'The Future Of Corrections' said that many of the potential benefits that had been anticipated on the introduction of the tagging system had not been realised.  The system which includes ankle tags and satelite technology is provided by G4S and SERCO.  It is anticipated that £70 million a year would be freed up if the companies handed over the technology to police and Probation to allow them to fit the tags and monitor the system themselves.  It would be expected that the savings would pay for 2,000 Probation Officers or 1,200 additional police officers to work specifically on offender management. The report also suggested that these officers should be able to recommend to courts and prison governors which offenders should be tagged.  

The Government has said that from April 2013 new contracts for electronic monitoring would represent better value.  However, Chris Miller, a former Assistant Chief Constable, said "what we have been given instead is a sclerotic, centrally controlled top-down system that has enriched two or three large suppliers that lack the innovation and flexibility of international comparitors and that fails to demonstrate either that it is value for money or that it does anything to reduce offending."  

The author of the report, Rory Geoghegan said "extending the use of tagging without these reforms will just see millions of pounds wasted and a real opportunity to cut crime missed."   Policy Exchange says that the cost of electronic monitoring for each offender in EnglandandWalesis £13.14 per day whereas it is understood that the equivalent in theUnited Statesis £1.22 per day.   Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said that new guidelines being introduced called for "a more integrated approach that takes advantage of the latest technology. Properly administered, new generation tagging can promote improved behaviour and give victims reassurance".

G4S has only recently been awarded a five year contract worth £13 million by the Scottish Government to run a new tagging system with GPS technology which gives authorities the ability to continuously track offenders whereabouts. 

Richard Morris, the Group Managing Director of G4S Care and Justice Services said "the use of electronic monitoring inEnglandandWalesactually saves the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds each year by providing a robust alternative to expensive prison custody for offenders who are deemed suitable for tagging.  We have also worked closely with the Ministry of Justice over the years to introduce innovations and changes to the orignal service which have resulted in improved value for money". 

It is understood that G4S monitors more than 50,000 people in more than fifteen countries.

It is only a matter of months ago that considerable concerns were raised after a Probation Inspectorate review of tagging inEnglandandWalessuggested that more than half of criminals wearing electronic tags were breaking their curfews.  The National Association of Prison Officers also published a report detailing a 120 examples of mistakes in the tagging system since the start of this year.  The release of those reports came only a day after a 15 year old boy who was at the time being electronically monitored on a tag was given a life sentence for murdering a student in a row over throwing conkers.  The 15 year old was subject to an electronically monitored curfew as part of a Rehabilitation Order imposed the previous month.