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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Electronic tagging is a form of non-surreptitious surveillance consisting of an electronic device attached to a person or vehicle, especially certain criminals, allowing their whereabouts to be monitored. In general, devices locate themselves using GPS and report their position back to a control centre, for example via a cellular (mobile) phone network. This form of criminal sentencing is known under different names in different countries; for example in New Zealand it is referred to as "home detention", and in North America "electronic monitoring" is a more common term.



In 1964, Ralph Kirkland Schwitzgebel (family name later shortened to "Gable") headed a research team at Harvard that experimented with a prototype electronic monitoring system. In 1969, he and William S. Hurd were granted a patent (#3,478,344). Also in 1969, Robert Schwitzgebel ("Gable"), a professor at UCLA and Claremont Graduate University in California, wrote an article in Psychology Today about an FCC-licensed experimental radio station to locate and send two-way radio signals to juvenile offenders. About a decade later in 1983, a district court judge, Jack Love persuaded Michael Goss, a computer salesperson, to develop a system to monitor five offenders in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Judge Love was supposedly inspired to act based upon a storyline in a Spider-Man comic.[1] This was probably the first court-sanctioned use of electronic monitoring.

Until the widespread adoption of cellular and broadband internet networks in the mid-1990s, electronic monitoring devices were typically home-based, dependent on a dedicated land line, and able to report only whether or not the criminal being tracked was remaining at home. This was useful for criminals on work-release, parole, or probation, for example DWI offenders who were allowed to leave home to go to work during daytime hours but had to return home and remain there after a certain time of the evening. More recent technology such as GPS and cellular networks have permitted courts to order more specific restrictions, such as permitting a registered child sex offender to leave his home at any time of day, but alerting authorities if they come within 100 metres of a school, park, or playground.

In the United Kingdom

A simpler form is in regular use in the United Kingdom, where a base station is connected to a telephone line at the offender's home, and a tag is attached to the offender's ankle. If the tag isn't functioning and within range of the base during curfew hours, or if the base is disconnected from the phone line, then the authorities are automatically alerted. The system can also be used to enforce restrictions away from specified locations such as victims' homes, and football grounds. Instead of allowing full location tracking, this system can be used to enforce the curfews which commonly form part of community-based sentences, the conditions of Home Detention Curfew or parole of offenders released from prison. Most of these uses are now covered by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in England and Wales, with separate legislation applying in Scotland. The system is also used for monitoring those subject to house arrest or other "Control orders" under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

Trials of GPS-based systems to track the movements of sex offenders are under way in England.

A similar system is also in use in Belgium.

See also


  1. ^ QI Transcript, Season 4 Episode 8 QI, Transcript on; Broadcast 2006; Accessed 25/09/2007

External links



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