€680k to be spent on the electronic tagging of prisoners

Almost €700,000 is to be spent by the prison authorities over the next two years on the electronic tagging of prisoners.

A tender issued by the Irish Prison Service shows that €680,000 has been set aside for the tagging and monitoring of prisoners who are on temporary release.

The winning bidder will be required to provide the IPS with the exact location of up to 50 prisoners at any time during the monitoring.

A report on the details of all prisoner movements, including breaches of curfew and exclusion zone conditions, will have to be provided daily.

The IPS has proposed that up to 50 prisoners can be tagged electronically at any one time, with individuals fitted with satellite, GPS, or radio-frequency tracking equipment for periods up to a maximum of six months.

The prison authorities have signalled that daily curfew periods (when a prisoner may be confined to a specified location) will be for a maximum period of 12 hours.

Similarly, daily periods during which a prisoner may be excluded from a specified location may apply for up to 12 hours.

“The overall period of monitoring and daily time schedules will be outlined in the terms and conditions of each prisoner’s temporary release conditions,” the IPS said.

The electronic-monitoring system must also be capable of detecting if equipment is being tampered with or if there is a loss of contact or equipment failure.

Any evidence of tampering, or of attempted tampering, with the tagging device must be notified immediately to the IPS.

The IPS has said the electronic-tagging equipment must be “practical, waterproof, comfortable, hygienic, and discrete”.

The devices will be fitted to prisoners in prison or in hospital and under the supervision of IPS staff.

The tender is only open to companies that have a licence provided by the Private Security Authority, while all staff involved in the installing and fitting of the equipment will require security clearance. The contract will be awarded to the “most economically advantageous tender” for a period of two years, with the option to renew for a further two years.

In 2010, a pilot programme for the electronic tagging of prisoners was beset by equipment malfunctioning.

Electronic tagging has regularly been used by the IPS since 2013 to monitor prisoners granted temporary release for the purpose of the Community Return/Community Support Scheme, as well as for monitoring prisoners who are patients in hospitals..

In 2017 — the latest year for which figures are available — 59 prisoners were tagged and monitored at a total cost of €166,117, with up to 20 monitored at any one time.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the electronic-monitoring arrangements within the Irish prison system are different to those envisaged in legislation for use with individuals granted bail, as “significantly different constitutional and operational considerations apply”.

Although the electronic tagging of prisoners was provided for under the Bail Act 1997, the relevant section was not commenced.

However, the Criminal Justice Act, 2017 allows for the electronic monitoring of individuals on bail so as to facilitate the targeted use of monitoring in appropriate cases.

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