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.