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Electronic tagging trial declared a success

Electronic tagging could provide a viable alternative to prison Keystone

A three-year pilot project which used electronic tagging to keep tabs on convicted criminals has been declared a success.

The project organisers said electronic monitoring made offenders more self-disciplined, encouraged family life and cost less than prison.

Six cantons – Bern, Basel City, Basel Country, Ticino, Valais and Geneva – took part in the project, which started in 1999.

A total of 631 criminals, serving sentences of not more than 12 months, were tagged.

The system allows offenders to live at home and carry on with their everyday life, but they are constantly tracked via an electronic tag attached to a limb.

Violations of the sentencing conditions, such as breaking a curfew or an exclusion order, set off an alarm.

Gabriela Peter, who worked on the project, said the results of the pilot project were very positive: in only four per cent of cases did electronic monitoring have to be broken off and the offender sent to prison.

It also found that while 16,000 alarms were set off during the three-year period, only six per cent of cases warranted further action.

The organisers said they were very surprised and pleased with the level of self-discipline shown by offenders in keeping to the conditions of the tagging.

Fears unfounded

They also remarked that fears of an increase in domestic violence were unfounded.

“One of our concerns was whether there would be a negative impact on the families involved; but on the contrary, most people were really very positive about the project,” Peter told swissinfo.

The project found that partners of the offenders, most of whom were male (93 per cent), said they noticed a positive effect on personal relationships and family life.

This included more “quality time” together, and help with the household and children.

Low cost

At SFr54 ($34) per day, tagging proved less expensive than community service which costs SFr60. And it was less than half the SFr114 needed to keep offenders under “partial release” conditions at prison.

But Peter said there was still some way to go before electronic tagging became accepted as a viable alternative to prison in Switzerland.

“The last phase is the evaluation of how many people re-offend [after being on the programme],” said Peter.

“So we want to compare electronic monitoring with other forms of serving sentences in Switzerland, and find out if more or less people return to crime in comparison with people who went to prison,” she added.

The justice ministry is reserving final judgement on electronic tagging until further analysis has been carried out.

For this reason, the cabinet is not due to decide whether to extend the project until 2005.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold and Samantha Tonkin

631 people were tagged.
16 000 alarms went off and interventation was needed in 6% of the cases.
In 4% of the cases, tagging was broken off and the offender sent to prison.

The pilot project started in 1999 and was carried out in six cantons.

The cost of electronic monitoring is estimated at SFr54 compared to SFr60 community service and SFr114 for “partial release”.

The cabinet will decide in 2005 if the project is to be extended after an analysis of reoffenders.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR