In an attempt to contain the growing prison population, the government has announced the national roll-out of a pilot scheme to equip offenders with new GPS tags.1
Unlike the ankle bracelets currently worn by 60,000 offenders to enforce home curfews, the new devices will track an individual’s movements 24/7 to detect whether they are entering no-go zones, attending rehabilitation programmes, or nearing addresses to which they are barred.
“GPS tagging will help to better protect victims and give them the reassurance that perpetrators will not be able to breach an exclusion zone without triggering an immediate alert,” says Justice Secretary David Gauke, who adds, “I am confident that this important new technology will become a vital tool to increase public protection and strengthen options for tougher community sentences.”
Before we get too excited, let’s remind ourselves of a few salient facts. For a start, the roll-out will be limited to a maximum of 1,000 tags in use at any one time at a daily cost of £9 per tag. Not much of a payback on a scheme that was supposed to have been in use six years ago, has already cost £60 million, and is projected to swallow up £470 million by 2025.
And surprise, surprise, among the suppliers of the technology and associated monitoring service we find Capita (a serial bungler of high profile outsourcing contracts), and G4S (which supplies the current generation of electronic tags and which, in 2017, was found to be charging for criminals who had either died, never been fitted with tags or were still in jail).
Little wonder that, following a damning National Audit Office review of the new GPS tagging project in 2017, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey ventured that the system had been a “disgraceful waste of public money.”