Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Questions (166)

Jonathan O'Brien


167 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the expected cost of electronically tagging prisoners on release from prison. [4284/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

The Deputy may wish to note that Part 10 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for the introduction of electronic monitoring, or tagging as it is also known, in this jurisdiction. My predecessor made the relevant order in 2010 commencing the provisions in the context of a restriction of movement condition applying to the granting of temporary release.

In tandem with the publication of the Discussion Document on the Management of Sex Offenders in 2009, a Project Board was at the time set up to examine the whole area of electronic monitoring (EM). The Board recommended that a pilot project be initiated in order to test EM technology in this jurisdiction and assess its value for money in the management of offenders. This recommendation was accepted and a decision was taken to explore, on a pilot basis, the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) Satellite Tracking monitoring technology on a small number of volunteer prisoners.

Following a public tender competition, the Irish Prison Service tested the use of this technology on a small number of prisoners, 31 in all, who were given temporary release. The test phase began in August 2010 and ran up until Christmas. The group of prisoners involved were carefully selected having regard to a range of criteria including the nature of the offence, public safety and overall conduct in prison. I am informed that prisoner compliance was high and only one prisoner was recalled due to a curfew violation. Following the pilot project, the Irish Prison Service has undertaken a comprehensive review of its viability in the management of offenders along with a cost benefit analysis. That review will be considered in due course.

Finally, in line with the recommendations in the Report of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group, the Deputy will know that I am establishing a group to carry out an all encompassing strategic review of penal policy. That group will also look at this issue.