The Monitored Person's Perspective
An integral aspect of the stakeholder engagement process was seeking the views of those with lived experience of being monitored, either as part of an RLO or following release from prison on HDC. The views expressed by the monitored persons throughout this process, together with the views captured in the wider international literature, have been important in shaping aspects of this report.
The 2015 SCCJR research found that 'different international perspectives suggest a mixed response from monitored people, implying that electronically monitored punishment is preferred over imprisonment, yet EM has its own 'pains' and challenges and may be experienced as punitive and controlling'.
This view was echoed by those that we engaged with throughout the process, both monitored people and wider stakeholders. There was belief and acceptance amongst the individuals that electronic monitoring and the restriction of a person's liberty was a legitimate punishment which was not simple to complete or adhere to. It was however almost universally seen as a better option than prison, helping to maintain family ties and providing the monitored person with the opportunity to maintain or normalise their life as much as possible.
The discussions then primarily focussed on experiences of EM within a Scottish setting. One notable discussion was with regard to communication. There appeared to be a lack of basic knowledge amongst monitored persons about the 'rules' of electronic monitoring. It was thought that this lack of knowledge often left monitored persons' and their families unsure about contacting G4S or the issuing authorities to ask for advice in case they were perceived to be asking 'stupid' or 'phishing' questions. It was noted that this reluctance to communicate openly with G4S or the issuing authority may, in turn, lead to unnecessary breach of the monitored person's order. It was felt that current communication of the facts of EM was therefore often ineffective and that individuals' understanding of the process could be fragmented and based on misconception.
The prevailing belief amongst the individuals that we engaged with was that EM could be better tailored to individuals' circumstances to best achieve outcomes, for example curfew times could be set around employment requirements. For those on HDC, it was felt that more accessible information could be provided to prisoners to help them understand how EM could potentially be used in a positive way to support desistance and of the potential impact of EM on their families/co-habitants. One suggestion to help address this was to produce a DVD involving people who had lived experienced of being electronically monitored which explained the process and the potential pitfalls. This solution could also provide information to those on a court order and to family members/co-habitants. Again, for those in prison, the possible introduction of peer support specifically for EM, similar to the listeners peer support, was considered as a potential development area. It was suggested that this support could be provided via 'drop in' sessions within establishments.
Information given to families was also an area of concern it was suggested that holding joint information sessions with individuals and their families could be beneficial.
When liaising with monitored persons and family members, and in particular when undertaking home assessment visits, it was felt that there was a role for the third sector. This could be either in direct liaison with monitored persons or family members or in a supportive role alongside CJSW. One suggestion was for CJSW to carry out joint home visits with third sector partners. There may also be a role for peer mentors supporting monitored persons and families.
The availability of suitable accommodation was viewed as a major barrier to both being eligible for EM and to successfully completing a monitoring order. In particular the stigmatisation experienced from landlords. For those coming out of prison, HDC hostels or HDC foster families were suggested as a possible solution. A source of stress for individuals on EM was the provision of maintaining an uninterrupted supply of electricity particularly if supplied via card or key.
On future uses of EM, the monitored persons mentioned particular opportunities to use EM more flexibly alongside custody. These opportunities appeared to be in line with a desire to remain as an active contributor to society e.g. attending work during the day and returning to prison at night, working during the week and spending weekends in prison, and supporting desistance by using GPS technology to create exclusion zones to keep monitored persons apart from bad influences.