Ethical and professional standards in Electronic Monitoring

I recently reviewed (again) the Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on electronic monitoring. I find it to be a definite manifesto of Electronic Monitoring in Europe.  This document covers the ethical standards of Electronic Monitoring programs. What makes this guide stand out is the fact that it is written from the perspective of a side that recognizes Electronic Monitoring as a solution that can help improve communities’ safety and enable subjects’ rehabilitation.

While reviewing the European Council recommendation, I came across a report written by Prof. Mike Nellis ( somehow, I missed it in the past..). It builds upon the European Council report, taking Electronic Monitoring discussion a step further, transforming the recommendations into more detailed guidelines; and comparing various policies and approaches to EM.

I am convinced that these two documents should serve as the main directives of Electronic Monitoring programs flow from start to finish –  from ethical, legislative, and social perspectives.

In fact, the social and legislative aspects of Electronic Monitoring programs are well covered by the leading minds of the field. The guidelines mentioned here as well as other documents available today, revolve around a somewhat progressive concept that aims to enable communities’ safety while focusing on offenders’ rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

The technological side of EM programs, however, has not caught up with the theoretical side quite yet. From the technological side of things, there are quite critical questions that require thorough consideration, such as:

  1. How can EM solution support different countries’ requirements re location points? Some countries collect the location points while others only detect exclusion and inclusion points bound to the country’s privacy laws. Some countries can use location points for investigation of certain activities, others cannot.
  2. What key features must EM systems possess to fully support government agencies in adequate handling of offenders on EM? (Reports, knowledge, communication, schedule etc.)
  3. What is the appropriate balance between computer based capabilities and the personnel involvement when coming in a contact with a human being? Should EM system send automatic voice messages to offender, upon a need, or should an interaction with the offender be only initiated by another person?
  4. What are the necessary measures for data protection?
  5. How can we use the “big data” collected by the EM system to provide a beneficial information to the government agencies?

These are just a few examples of what EM system should meet, refer and propose solutions.

For EM programs to be applied in the closest way possible to the envisioned concept, it is imperative to create technological standards and requirements.

These will, in turn, generate Electronic Monitoring programs that actually meet policy-makers’ requirements and fulfill the vision of safer communities and offenders’ rehabilitation.

What are your thoughts on a matter? What are the most acute technological challenges in the EM program that you are involved in? In what ways, you think EM program should use the technology to better serve the community? I would like to hear from you! Drop me a line.