The provinces and federal government operate a mixed bag of electronic monitoring programs. The programs vary in significant respects. First, let’s summarize which governments operate programs, what type of monitoring they use and whether the monitoring is used pre-conviction, post-conviction, or both.
“GPS” refers to an ankle bracelet system that uses the Global Positioning System to continuously track the wearer; “RF” refers to an ankle bracelet system that uses a radio-frequency “tether” to monitor whether the wearer is home or not home; “pre-conviction” refers to bail, also known as pre-trial release or judicial interim release; and “post-conviction” refers to the various forms of community supervision that can follow a conviction, such as conditional sentence orders, temporary absences, probation and/or parole.
- BC – GPS, pre- and post-conviction;
- Alberta – no program;
- Saskatchewan – RF, pre- and post-conviction;
- Manitoba – no program;
- Ontario – RF, post-conviction;
- Quebec – no program;
- Nova Scotia – GPS, post-conviction ;
- New Brunswick – RF and GPS, post-conviction;
- PEI – GPS, post-conviction;
- Newfoundland and Labrador – GPS, post-conviction (pilot);
- Nunavut – no program;
- NWT – no program;
- Yukon – no program; and
- Correctional Service of Canada – GPS, post-conviction (the Canada Border Services Agency also uses GPS bracelets borrowed from CSC for immigration matters).
How a program is organized can have a significant impact on people
The government-operated programs that do exist vary in their policy objectives and parameters such as eligibility criteria and decision-making roles and processes. All of these differences have important implications for people charged with and convicted of criminal offences. Having the right technology available at the right stage of the criminal justice process can determine whether a person is held in remand custody or released on bail, whether they are able to obtain a conditional sentence instead of serving jail time, and, at the end of a custodial sentence, whether they are released earlier than they otherwise would be.
Difficult choices and differing perceptions
Electronic monitoring presents a number of challenges for governments when they are trying to decide whether and when to use it, which lead them to reach very different conclusions, and help to explain the variations we see in programming decisions. For example, at the same time that BC, Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI and New Brunswick were deciding to move forward with new programs, Alberta and Manitoba were deciding to discontinue theirs.
RSC’s non-government programs help fill the gaps
Recovery Science (RSC) operates Canada’s largest non-government electronic monitoring program. RSC offers programs using GPS, RF, and alcohol monitoring technologies, available both pre-conviction and post-conviction. RSC’s programs help fill the many gaps created when a suitable government program is not available.
Our GPS monitoring program has helped over 800 people obtain bail, with most of those being in Ontario. We know there are many more people in remand custody across the country who, if they, their families, and/or their lawyers were aware of our programs, would be able to put together a plan of supervision that could meet the legal tests for bail. In smaller numbers, our programs have helped people obtain conditional sentences, but with the concept proven, like bail, we know there are many more people across Canada who could serve their sentence in the community instead of in jail with the appropriate form of monitoring as part of their plan.
Future posts will take a closer look at the variations among the government-run electronic monitoring programs, the implications of those differences, and provide examples of how RSC’s programs can help when a government program is not available.
Since 2010, about 30 people facing criminal charges involving alcohol have achieved a better outcome by participating in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring programs. These cases have involved diverse factual situations and charges ranging from repeated instances of mischief to impaired driving causing death to murder. We believe there are many more cases in Canada where our alcohol monitoring programs can help.
Alcohol monitoring can help in a number of ways. The first thing that may come to mind for many people is that monitoring would be used in combination with a condition that the person abstain from consuming alcohol. This is certainly one way that monitoring can be used, but there are others which may not be as immediately apparent.
Evidence of sobriety
For example, in making submissions in support of a shorter jail sentence or a conditional sentence that can be served in the community, we often hear defence counsel advise the court that their client has been sober for some period of time. In many cases, the person’s self-report is the only evidence available to support this submission. Imagine if defence counsel could say to the court, “my client has been tested every thirty minutes, 24/7, for the past 6 months, and I have a report showing that every one of those tests was negative for alcohol consumption.” This is exactly what participating in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring program can make possible.
A person with a history of criminal charges associated with alcohol can leave the court in a quandary when considering an application for bail or a proposal for a conditional sentence. The court may see prohibiting the person from consuming alcohol as the only way to reduce the risk that they will get into trouble in the community, but may lack confidence that they will be able to abstain. In such cases, including participation in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring program as part of the plan of supervision can tip the balance in favour of the person being released or allowed to serve their sentence in the community. This is because the monitoring (a) can help the person abstain, because they know that, if they drink, it will be reported and (b) gives the court the comfort of knowing that, if the person does begin to drink, they won’t be able to do so repeatedly before anyone knows about it, because it will be detected and reported the first time they drink.
In some cases, the court’s quandary is even more difficult, because the court is concerned that the person simply won’t be able to abstain from consuming alcohol and that a court order requiring them to abstain will just lead to inevitable breach charges. The court may then be left with the impression that it has only two options, neither of which seems to satisfactorily serve the interests of justice – to keep the person in jail or to let them be in the community without a requirement that they abstain from alcohol. This is where RSC’s Soberleave program can help. With Soberleave, we combine alcohol monitoring with location monitoring, enabling a third option – the person who is dependent on alcohol can consume it, but to control the risk that creates, they are only permitted to consume alcohol at home and must be alcohol-free when outside the home.
Real Life Examples
While the number of cases in which RSC alcohol monitoring programs is still relatively small, the human stories involved have been quite profound. For example, in our very first case, a man with a history of alcohol-related offences, including assaults, mischief, and breaches, had been denied bail due to concerns that “if left unchecked and simply on the strength of a promise, he would lapse back to alcohol abuse” and commit more offences. With a new plan that included participation in RSC’s SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring program, he was granted pre-trial release. This allowed him to be with his wife and children instead of in jail while awaiting trial, while ensuring that if he began to drink, the court would know.
Another young man faced charges of aggravated assault and attempted murder arising from multiple incidents during which he was intoxicated. The court noted that when he was intoxicated and experiencing jealousy, he lost control. His lawyers helped him bring together a plan of supervision that included residential treatment and dual GPS/alcohol monitoring, which satisfied the court that he could be released on bail so that he could get the help he needed for his addictions and mental health issues while awaiting trial, while ensuring detection if he did not comply with his conditions.
In another case, a man charged with impaired driving, and a record that included four previous convictions for impaired driving and convictions for refusing to provide a breath sample and driving while prohibited, had been denied bail. With a new plan that included participation in RSC’s SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring program, he was granted pre-trial release. At his sentencing, the record of eight months sobriety he had established through the CAM program’s 48 tests per day helped him obtain a conditional sentence. His wife told the court that the program had helped him because he knew he could no longer hide his drinking, which led to him not drinking and to dramatic improvements in his relationships with her and their children.
These are just a few examples. In every case involving alcohol abuse and serious criminal charges, everyone involved is experiencing very difficult challenges, including the accused, the victim, their families, and the professionals trying to support them and see that the interests of justice are served. In many cases, alcohol monitoring may be able to help contribute to better outcomes.
RSC’s alcohol monitoring programs include continuous alcohol monitoring with the SCRAM ankle bracelet with tests every 30 minutes 24/7, and remote breath testing on a schedule of multiple tests per day.
Electronic monitoring has long been a fixture in the U.S. justice system, where tens of thousands of accused criminals wear GPS-monitoring bracelets — not just celebrities such as Weinstein. But GPS monitoring is also becoming more common in Canada, with growing acceptance by judges and justices of the peace that the devices can be another safeguard in a release plan.
Read article on theworldnews.net
Electronic monitoring is an important factor that courts consider when deciding whether to grant bail to a person who might otherwise be detained.
When someone knows that their compliance is monitored 24/7, it changes the calculus.
If the wearer knows that violations will be detected and reported to the police, a person — who might otherwise be considered a risk to violate conditions — is more likely to comply. Plus, all breaches are documented, and that evidence can then be used against the person in future hearings.
So, the shift for the court’s analysis is from trusting that a person will not commit a violation, to trusting that a person comprehends the deterrent.
RSC has demonstrated a credible, reliable program that can make the difference between pre-trial release and detention in many cases. The proof is in the 750 bails, granted across seven provinces, that have included monitoring by RSC.
Without a way of monitoring compliance, prosecutors and courts are often left with the difficult and subjective task of assessing the degree to which the accused can be trusted to comply with release conditions. RSC’s programs can help shift that subjectivity into something more objective.
First, it changes the standard from a subjective assessment that the accused is likely to honour his or her bail terms, to objective monitoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The shift is from attempting to subjectively quantify confidence that a person will not violate their conditions — even though the risk of detection is low — to assessing the impact on them knowing that detection is certain.
For example, knowing that being late for curfew — or going to a location specifically prohibited by the court — will be detected and reported becomes a powerful motivator to comply with release conditions.
Risk is generally intertwined with the likelihood of detection. Speeding is one analogy. Adherence to a posted speed limit can be correlated with how certain detection is. Drivers are less likely to speed in locations where they know police enforcement mechanisms are in place.
Monitoring has made the difference even in cases where the accused has a history of failures to comply with release conditions when not being monitored. Electronic monitoring increases the court’s confidence that even if an accused has breached conditions in the past — without monitoring — they will be less likely to breach while being monitored.
Where a person has taken risks because he calculates the chances of being caught as being low, the monitoring changes the analysis.
In addition to encouraging compliance with specific conditions, such as curfew or permitted exceptions to a house arrest, GPS monitoring is also a deterrent to a person committing offences where the record of their location would link them to the offence.