An immigrant woman seeking asylum in the U.S. in San Antonio, Texas, in 2018.
Photo: Eric Gay (AP)

Thousands of convicted criminals and others accused of crimes in England and Wales will be required to wear GPS-coordinate-tracking bracelets, replacing an older generation of electronic tags not capable of monitoring someone’s movement in real time, the BBC reported on Saturday.

According to the BBC, around 60,000 people are already required to wear electronic tags annually, though the ones in circulation now only “issue an alert if the person wearing the tag is not present at a particular address during the hours they are meant to be.” The new bracelets, which will start their deployment this summer, will transmit live updates on the wearer’s location and can be used to block them from entering no-go zones or check if they are attending court-ordered rehabilitation programs.

Advertisement

The BBC wrote:

Officials estimate that around 4,000 people will be GPS-tagged in a year. There will be a maximum of 1,000 tags in use at any one time.

[Justice Secretary David Gauke] told the BBC the technology could be used for a “broad range” of offences - as an alternative to custodial sentences for relatively minor crimes, and to monitor more serious offenders once they have been released.

“GPS tagging will help to better protect victims and give them the reassurance that perpetrators will not be able to breach an exclusion zone without triggering an immediate alert,” he said.

Advertisement

In a statement on the UK government’s web site, the Ministry of Justice wrote that it had determined the GPS bracelets were potentially effective for increasing criminal compliance and assisting investigations. It also released its findings from an “extensive evaluation” carried out by eight police departments.

“I’ve walked in an exclusion zone before, not realizing,” one offender who participated in the test program said in the statement. “... That was before I had the tag on, so I wasn’t really bothered about getting seen. Now, with the tag, I knew full well that if I go in to that exclusion zone, I’m going to get seen no matter what.”

While some of the offenders asked to wear the bracelets will have committed violent crimes such as rape or domestic abuse, mandatory use of one of the units may also be handed down as an alternative sentence to jail time or while a defendant is out on bail. In the U.S., where the use of GPS-enabled ankle monitors have surged in recent years, critics have said the 24/7 monitoring violates the right to privacy and is often accompanied by abusive tactics by the private companies that manufacture them.

Advertisement

[BBC]