Studying electronic monitoring in Hungary and Scotland

This post comes from Léna Podoletz, who is an assistant lecturer at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Faculty of Law, Department of Criminology. Lena conducted a Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) research between 1st August and 15th October in Scotland (at the University of Strathclyde) and in Hungary on the topic of electronic monitoring of offenders. Here, she describes what she did and what she learned…

‘My aim was to examine and compare how electronic monitoring of offenders is implemented in Hungary and in Scotland and also to study the perception of electronic tagging among the various actors of the criminal justice system and to compare the two frequently used methods of electronic monitoring (radio frequency technology and GPS technology).

During the weeks of my STSM – along with reviewing the available literature on the topics of my research questions and studying the legal regulation and available data, reports and guidances both in Hungary and in Scotland – I was able to talk to many highly skilled and knowledgeable experts and practitioners, visit institutions and attend interesting informative events, all of which added priceless new information and knowledge to my research.

I also had the opportunity to interview actors of the criminal justice system and experts on electronic monitoring and the conversations gave me a deeper understanding of electronic monitoring and the system within it is being operated.

I visited the electronic monitoring centre in Scotland and was given an insight to the practical issues of electronic monitoring.

As a guest, I observed a meeting of the subgroup of the ‘Electronic Monitoring in Scotland Working Group’ where the member of the group were sharing ideas on the communication on electronic monitoring to the various stakeholders and on the development of the electronic monitoring communication strategy.

On 26th August I participated the conference titled ‘ENCOURAGING TAG-TICAL REHABILITATION – (The Role of Electronic Monitoring)’ in Perth where experts from all areas of the criminal justice system were discussing the future of electronic monitoring. I also participated in the conference workshops which were organized for sharing experiences and ideas on electronic monitoring as a tool and also the system it is supposed to operated in. At the conference I also had the possibility to experience the feeling of ‘being tagged’ as part of a small demonstration of GPS tags.

Throughout my research – and in the paper I wrote based on my project – I was mainly concentrating on the question whether electronic monitoring should be used as a stand alone punishment. According to my findings, electronic monitoring has more potential to achieve the goals of its use when it is implemented in a combination with social work. Social work can provide the essential support for offenders’ integration or reintegration. It is questionable whether electronic monitoring used by itself can achieve this. Of course, the fact that the offender is not separated from his/her usual environment, family, etc. can also contribute to this effect, providing huge support but I believe that the role of social work in this matter is an absolute necessity.

The other questions I discuss in my paper were either raised during the interviews I conducted with experts or are based on my observation regarding electronic monitoring. I debate whether electronic monitoring should be handled by the public or the private sector, how might the different characteristics of the two sectors affect the implementation and practice of electronic monitoring; what is the possible role of the family in electronic monitoring – if there are family members living in the same household as the offender -; the questions of breach criteria in Scotland; the possible uses and advantages of both radio frequency and GPS based technologies; and one of the most essential questions: the communication between the various actors who are involved in electronic monitoring.

I would like to express my gratitude and thank to all people who helped me during my research. First and foremost to Professor Mike Nellis, who was my host at the University of Strathclyde and who provided essential help to my research, and Professor Klára Kerezsi, my thesis supervisor. I also have to mention all the experts who I met and interviewed, and of course, the COST Action IS1106 – Offender Supervision in Europe which made my research possible.

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