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Low-Budget Justice: Germany Opts For Electronic Ankle Monitors To Cut Jail Costs

In order to reduce costs, German judges can now replace jail sentences with electronic monitoring: an ankle bracelet for those who otherwise would be locked up. Five of the 16 German states have signed up, with others to follow.

A prison in Frankfurt
A prison in Frankfurt

Worldcrunch NEWSBITES

Ever more cash-strapped German states are busy keeping local criminals from serving prison sentences. The local justice officials are signing up for a centrally-run electronic ankle bracelet program as a way to save the cost of keeping them in jail.

Since Jan. 1, 2011, sentencing judges in Germany have a third option, besides a fine or jail time: electronic monitoring – an ankle bracelet that may be ordered for those who stand accused, have been convicted, or are still considered dangerous after serving a jail sentence.

Five of the 16 German states -- Bayern, Hessen, Baden-Württemberg, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – have already signed up for the program, and others are set to follow. The central monitoring station is located in Bad Vilbel (Hessen) and will be up and running fully on Jan. 1, 2012.

Hessen was the first state to experiment as early as 10 years ago with the use of the monitoring bracelet. Baden-WĂĽrttemberg followed suit in an attempt to lower costs: keeping someone housed in jail costs 300,000 euros a year, compared to 7,500 euros for monitoring someone wearing a bracelet.

According to the Bavarian justice department, there is also an economy of scale to consider: the more prisoners wearing the bracelets the cheaper the cost. The company that makes the bracelets estimates the cost for the package at 2,500 euros per person per year.

Electronic ankle bracelets are already use in other European countries, such as Sweden, Spain, and the UK. In the UK alone, they are used to monitor 60,000 people. Some 100,000 are monitored with the bracelets in the United States.

The bracelets received considerable publicity when film director Roman Polanski was ordered by a Swiss court in 2009 to wear one while under house arrest in Gstaad, and more recently when a New York court ordered one to be worn by former International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Read the full original article in German by Heribert Prantl

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