Cutting crime: the role of tagging in offender management

On any one day up to 25,000 people are subject to electronic monitoring (EM) in England and Wales, largely as part of a Community Order, Bail Order or post-release licence condition. In the last few years pilots have also been undertaken to test the impact of EM in tackling domestic violence, alcohol-related offending and prolific and priority offenders.

As technology has advanced, so too has the potential of ‘tagging’. The original radio frequency technology monitors whether an offender is in a particular location at a particular point in time, the global positioning system (GPS) technology allows continuous monitoring of an offender’s location. Transdermal alcohol tags can continuously test the alcohol level in an offender’s perspiration. As with any technology there are limitations, but as shown in America, if used effectively EM has the potential to help reduce reoffending and cut criminal justice system costs.

The potential of EM has, however, been undermined by the Ministry of Justice’s poor procurement of the ‘new generation’ of tags. At best it will have taken four and a half years to deliver the GPS tags, and even when they are delivered the contract model will stifle innovation.

The report recommends that the Government:

  • scrap the current procurement and establish a framework of approved suppliers for local services to contract with;
  • extend the use of tagging to police bail, domestic violence related orders and serious offenders leaving prison on early release; and
  • ensure frontline criminal justice practitioners can use the data generated from GPS tags to detect and prevent crime.


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