Home detention works? But what do we do when it doesn’t?

A sentence of home detention is the last chance for offenders to avoid jail.

The sentence, which can be given to offenders who would have otherwise faced a jail term of two years or less, restricts offenders to a suitable home address 24 hours a day, barring emergencies and approved absences. …

Offenders on home detention are monitored electronically by an ankle bracelet, which works by radio frequency.

In addition, GPS trackers monitor an offender’s movements if they are granted an absence for things such as work or rehabilitation programmes.

While absences are available, they are not granted easily and are treated cautiously by staff, Mr Matthews says.

When away, offenders are given one route to get to their destination, and must stick to it.

One of the main reasons for approving absences, [Department of Corrections Otago service manager for electronic monitoring Chris] Matthews says, is to facilitate employment opportunities.

”What we know is that employment is one of the most important factors in preventing someone from committing further offences.”

Absences are often sought at Christmas time and Mr Matthews has no problem with granting offenders an hour with their family, provided strict conditions are adhered to.

”If that’s going to be pro-social, then we may allow that to happen.”

Crucial to the success of the sentence, he says, is assessing the suitability of an offender’s address.

Factors such as radio reception, the house’s other occupants and child protection concerns are taken into account.

”If we get all that bit right, then we’re a long way down the track to actually making it work.”  …

Offenders on community detention are normally low-risk offenders who have committed crimes such as low-level property damage, theft, benefit fraud and alcohol-related ”scuffles”.

The sentence can apply on its own or alongside other sentences such as community work or a rehabilitation programme.

The bracelets, and the ease with which they can be removed, have come under fire recently.

In September, Christchurch District Court judge Alistair Garland took aim at electronic monitoring after a convicted sex offender on extended supervision allegedly cut off his bracelet and absconded.

Police arrested him four and a-half hours later. However, it is not practical to make the bracelets unremovable, Mr Matthews says.

”You have to be able to cut them off – it’s a health and safety issue.

”And someone who is determined to get the bracelet off will remove it.”

I guess the community doesn’t have a problem with home detention as such, with three specific exceptions:

  1. Some offenders are put on home detention that are clearly not suitable, such as sexual predators and those who present a threat to the public at large
  2. When someone does scarper, the response time is just too lax.
  3. Any offender that breaches their conditions in a serious way should immediately be returned to jail.

The fact we have sexual predators, sometimes of children, “monitored” this way isn’t good enough.  The public deserves better, and the consequences of any scumbag taking advantage needs to be so excessive as to provide a deterrent.  And for those that the deterrent doesn’t work, they need to be locked away anyway then.


– Damian George, ODT


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.