There are a variety of studies regarding the efficacy of electronic monitoring as a supplement to community supervision. Many claim that electronic monitoring increases compliance, reduces recidivism and speeds community re-entry. Others maintain that results are inclusive. What is undeniable, however, is that electronic monitoring provides a supervising officer with more reliable and independent information regarding an individual’s compliance than traditional supervision alone. Sometimes a little more information is all you need to make a big difference.
Officers using electronic monitoring can be reassured of the location of each and every client. This creates a stronger presence of accountability all while eliminating the sense of uncertainty in regards to attendance among court required locations as opposed to unscheduled stops.
There’s also the economic argument: electronic monitoring and community supervision is much less costly than incarceration. For low risk offenders and juveniles, in particular, electronic supervision within the community is certainly less expensive and likely to be more effective than incarceration with its attendant exposure to more hardened criminals and predators.
Savings go far beyond the cost of incarceration: there’s lost child support and family income, increased welfare and public assistance support. And, few would argue that many individuals leave jails with a greater criminal tendency than when they went in
Today, electronic monitoring is used in virtually every state. But despite advances in technology and the type of systems available, it’s important to remember that electronic monitoring is just a tool. It’s not a program. As a tool, it can be used to independently verify dysfunctional or non-compliant behavior. In those instances, it can also be used as a sanction. For example, moving from less intensive to more intensive monitoring in response to repeated non-compliance may discourage that behavior. Electronic monitoring can also be used to reinforce positive actions like regularly attending counseling sessions, school or work. Moving from more intensive to less intensive surveillance can be used to reinforce repeated compliance, build self-esteem and self-confidence eventually leading to long term behavior modification and full community reentry. But, like any tool, its ultimate effectiveness depends upon how you use it.