In Ontario, the Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) is made up of electronic monitoring technologies that allow for Ontario Ministry staff to monitor offenders’ compliance with their Conditional Sentence (house arrest) and parolees' compliance with their curfew conditions.
EMS is imposed by Ontario Judges as an optional condition for Conditional Sentence Orders, for individuals serving Conditional Sentences, and by the Ontario Parole and Earned Release Board (OPERB) for individuals released on Ontario Parole and Temporary Absence Programs.
EMS seeks to ensure that individuals abide by their Conditional Sentence and curfew conditions, to reduce recidivism, and to offer a less costly alternative to imprisonment.
Individuals who are serving conditional sentences are placed under community supervision with the condition that they stay in their residence, with some exceptions made to allow them to attend work or take part in other other activities deemed legitimate.
Individuals who have been released on Ontario Parole and Temporary Absence Programs often have to abide by curfew conditions, requiring them to be at their residence at prearranged times.
Individuals required to participate in the program must have a residence, and active land based telephone service.
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Typically EM devices are in the form of bracelets, securely fastened around the ankle of the individual being monitored. These bracelets continuously locate and communicate the individual’s presence or absence within their approved residence.
This information is transmitted to a computer system that is monitored by Ministry staff 24 hours a day at the Ministry’s Ontario Monitoring Centre.
Violations occur when the individual being monitored is not present at their residence at the prearranged time constituting an unauthorized absence.
Equipment and/or monitoring issues occur when there are attempts to tamper with the monitoring equipment made, or when there are power outages or telephone service interruptions affecting the residence of the individuals being monitored.
These violations and equipment or monitoring issues are reported through the computer system to the Ontario Monitoring Centre and the assigned Case Managers.
These Case Managers are then responsible for decisions regarding their clients violations and issues.
Police are notified in instances where violations occur that cannot be resolved by the offender’s case managers and/or contact cannot be established with the individuals being monitored at certain times.
Is Electronic Monitoring effective?
EMS has been criticized as an unnecessary intrusion of the individual’s right to privacy.
There is evidence to suggest that EMS targets relatively low risk individuals who would function well without the additional controls imposed by EM.
Evaluations on the long-term impact of EM found that EM offenders and probationers had similar recidivism rates as non-EM offenders and probationers.
There is no evidence that EM has a more significant impact on recidivism than the less intrusive, and less costly, correctional measure of probation and custodial sentences.
Alternative modes by which to reduce recidivism such as cognitive-behavioural therapy programs have been found to be a comparatively more effective strategy to decrease recidivism.
Higher risk offenders who received cognitive-behavioural therapy treatment had a recidivism rate of 31.6%, where as higher risk offenders who did not receive cognitive-behavioural therapy treatment had a recidivism rate of 51.1%.
Where EMS had no effect on recidivism rates cognitive-behavioural therapy produced an almost 20% decrease of recidivism rate
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