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Québec plans to expand electronic surveillance

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Where it is implemented, electronic surveillance of surrogates is often carried out by means of an electronic bracelet worn on the ankle or wrist. When the person wearing it leaves their home or does not respect their curfew, a signal is transmitted to the authorities. (Archive photo)

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The Legault government is considering the possibility of using electronic surveillance to remotely monitor offenders serving sentences in the community.

In Quebec, most people sentenced to a suspended prison sentence are imposed, among other conditions, house arrest or cover -fire.

The Ministry of Public Safety (MSP) Correctional Services monitors compliance with these conditions through telephone checks and home visits.

The Ministry explores whether technologies exist to replace or support these checks using electronic monitoring. On January 15, it published a notice of interest to inquire about solutions offered by the market.

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In Canada, the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador use electronic monitoring to monitor the movements of offenders in the community. (Archive photo)

For the moment, the MSP is not able to say whether such a system would be based on the use of electronic bracelets such as those used to monitor the comings and goings of certain offenders, particularly in matters of sexual crimes and domestic violence.

According to our initial research and validations before the dissemination of this notice of interest, it appears that the technological means can be multiple. The notice of interest therefore aims to properly identify and analyze the different possible options, in order to optimize our surveillance activities, writes the ministry in an email to Radio-Canada.

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It is essential to maintain the punitive and coercive impact [of suspended sentences], while respecting the preferred approach, namely social reintegration. This solution must not distort the surveillance activities that are currently carried out.

A quote from Extract from the MSP's notice of interest

The MSP initially plans to implement a one-year electronic monitoring pilot project with a limited group of no more than 100 survivors.

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Quebec has recently used the anti-reconciliation bracelet to prevent a perpetrator of domestic violence from approaching his victim. (Archive photo)

If the pilot project is successful, the MSP will then extend the solution to all welfare recipients, i.e. nearly 2,500, distributed in the province of Quebec, we can read in the notice of interest.

Each year in Quebec, approximately 5,100 people receive a suspended prison sentence. The average monthly number of offenders subject to a suspended prison order under the responsibility of the MSP is around 1000.

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The Association of Social Rehabilitation Services of Quebec (ASRSQ) questions the relevance of implementing an electronic surveillance system of these offenders.

Its director general, David Henry, mentions that existing measures make it possible to control the mobility and movement of people serving a prison sentence in the community.

To my knowledge, there is no safety issue for people on parole. A person who is sentenced with a suspended sentence, the majority of the time, respects his conditions. She respects a curfew, she respects the conditions issued by the court, indicates Mr. Henry in an interview with Radio-Canada.

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David Henry questions the usefulness of electronic surveillance with regard to the deferrals. (File photo)

He fears that a possible electronic surveillance system would only serve to add control measures to people who do not necessarily need them.

The danger is to put in place additional control tools in relation to people who do not necessarily present a very high criminological risk or who do not present a risk to the security of the population, argues the general director of ASRSQ.

According to him, the best way to increase the security of the population with regard to people on parole is to offer them the support and accompaniment they need to reintegrate and not reoffend.

[The current system] works when people actually get services. For example, they will go to a halfway house after a stay in detention, have follow-up with a probation officer, with community workers and there, we see that the points of recidivism are actually lower for someone who obtains this kind of service, underlines David Henry.

The safety of our communities is okay through rehabilitation, through the reintegration of offenders.

A quote from David Henry, general director of ASRSQ

He mentions that studies suggest that electronic surveillance has a limited duration. We sometimes talk about three months. Beyond three months, according to certain criminological studies, it would even become counterproductive, notes David Henry.

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According to an MSP study published in 2018, the recidivism rate of people who had served a suspended sentence was 29% in 2010-2011, compared to 54% for those having served a continuous sentence. (File photo)

This is without taking into account, he continues, the issues linked to satellite coverage, which is faulty or completely non-existent in certain remote regions of Quebec, a situation which sometimes poses a problem when the time comes to impose an anti-reconciliation bracelet on a person convicted of domestic violence.

I know that the Correctional Services of the Ministry of Public Security are working on this issue too, but, indeed, there are regions in Quebec where you cannot wear an anti-reconciliation bracelet because the satellite coverage does not allow it. not. It's a reality, confides David Henry.

He believes that the only advantage of a possible electronic surveillance system would be to offer alternative to detention in cases where current control methods (telephone checks and home visits) are not sufficient to ensure the safety of the population.

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