Spy-in-the-sky tags attacked as cheap alternative to jail

David Blunkett was accused yesterday of planning to use satellite technology to track criminals as a cheap alternative to jail. The Home Secretary gave the go-ahead for a pilot scheme involving around 120 offenders in three areas who will be fitted with tags and monitored through the Global Positioning System network.

He called the initiative - which could be extended to cover thousands of offenders - a "prison without bars". It will be used as an alternative to custody and to enforce licence conditions imposed on people, including sex offenders, released from jail. The idea was first floated several years ago by the Conservatives but Dominic Grieve, a Tory legal spokesman, questioned the Government's motives for bringing in the scheme yesterday.

"While we support the tagging of certain prisoners, David Blunkett should not tag prisoners and let them out of jail earlier simply as a way of freeing up space in our already overcrowded prisons," he said...


Welcome to the prison without bars

Satellite trackers mean police can watch offenders' every step "Every step you take, I'll be watching you," sang the pop trio, The Police, in 1983. Now the real law enforcement agency is using satellite technology to do just that. Officers will keep tabs on paedophiles, domestic abusers and other prolific criminals 24 hours a day, thanks to an innovative tracking scheme launched in three pilot areas in England yesterday.

A total of 120 offenders, 40 each in Greater Manchester, Hampshire, and the West Midlands, will be fitted with devices that can pinpoint their position to within two metres...


How tracking of offenders works

The satellite tracking of offenders being piloted by the government from Thursday allows their location to be pinpointed to within two metres. Offenders wear an electronic ankle tag with a wireless connection to a belt-worn device that transmits co-ordinates to the tracking system. An alarm is triggered if this device is separated from the anklet. Home Secretary David Blunkett has said satellite tracking technology could create a "prison without bars" where "first-time low-level non-violent offenders would actually be tracked rather than sent to short-term prison sentences". Several US states use satellite technology to monitor offenders' movements. Florida introduced the technology in 1998 and is the largest user, tracking around 3,000 criminals.

The technology will be used following an offender's release from prison or to ensure compliance with an exclusion order stopping an offender going to certain places.


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