During the last twelve years at times a considerable prison overcrowding was to be observed in the Austrian prison system. Above all, this affects the inmates, but also prison staff. Consid- ering these conditions which are aggravated by a lack of resources it appears difficult to fulfil the mandate of the prison system and to ensure security. Sentence management as well as risk management become particularly important in a situation like this.
September of 2010 Electronic Monitoring in connection with house arrest was introduced as a way of serving a prison sentence or part of a sentence. Thereby the electronic tag became a tool for sentence management as well as for risk management. Although the number of people with electronic tags remained behind expectations so far, its use and its meaning for sentence management are believed to have a potential for expansion. Based on experiences and on ob- servations up to now an expansion of Electronic Monitoring is believed to provide chances for positive effects on several sides: Improvement of the situation of overcrowding in prisons; thereby resources may become available for qualitative improvements in the prison system, particularly for the prisoners; improvement of options with respect to sentence management as well as risk management; house arrest with Electronic Monitoring means serving a sentence closer to freedom and closer to the outside world, which is considered to have positive effects with respect to integration, without reducing levels of security of the general society.
Deliberations with Respect to an expansion however ask for up to date, evidence based knowledge, which reflects on current practice and results. Such a knowledge feeding into the planning does not exist so far. In Fact, the alleged or possible positive effects of Electronic Mo- nitoring may not prove true when evaluated.
Considering this the ELFUM research aims at,
- elaborating up to date, evidence based knowledge on qualities, chances, demands, conditions, limits as well as risks related to Electronic Monitoring and its expansion;
- studying Electronic Monitoring especially also as a tool or resource of an up to date sen- tence management. This approach will need to include observations of effects on the prison system as a whole.
Immediate outcomes of the project will be reports on the work packages, which will contribute to the final findings on Electronic Monitoring feeding in the following perspectives and infor- mation:
- Comprehensive quantitative data on applications, selection procedures and approvals, on the practice of Electronic Monitoring and the accompanying measures;
- International countries;
- Client-centred insights;
- research outcomes as well as practical experiences from other European
- Views of practitioners and experts on the practice and on possible ways of expansion.
The merging of these parts is supposed to finally create the basses for well-founded insights and recommendations which will be relevant for planning and developments. It will be a final part of the project to share these findings with practitioners.
Dr. Walter Hammerschick, IRKS – Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology
BMJ – Bundesministerium für Justiz (Generaldirektion für den Strafvollzug, Abt. II/2)
Dr. Walter Hammerschick
IRKS – Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology
Tel.: 01/ 526 15 16-21