Electronic monitors in use

911 chief says alternative sentencing not in place yet

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A total of 16 people either have
worn or are currently wearing new electronic monitors courtesy of the police,
prisons or court system, according to records provided by the 911 Emergency
Communications Centre.

Although Cayman’s criminal justice
system has been using the monitors since January on people released from the
custody of local police, courts, and prisons; so far the devices have not been
used on probationers or for the government’s alternative sentencing programme.

Although the laws have been passed
that would allow for electronic monitoring as part of a convict’s sentencing,
911 Director Brent Finster said Cayman doesn’t have facilities where prisoners
participating in an alternative programme could stay.

“There’s other parts of that law
that had to do with things like halfway houses and the establishment of other
alternative treatment and those things have never been funded,” Mr. Finster
said. “The idea was to get them out of prison; instead of sentencing them to
prison, sentence them to somewhere else.”

The Probation and Aftercare
Department currently performs its own monitoring of probationers. The agency is
in discussions with 911 about using the monitors.

So far, only early release
prisoners and those on bail from either the courts or the police service have
had electronic monitors attached to their legs.

Of the 16 people who have been
ordered to wear electronic monitors since January, seven were released on
police bail – which means they were at least not initially charged with a
crime. A change to Cayman Islands law in March allowed police to electronic
monitor suspects whom they release prior to charges being filed against them.

“They’ve always been able to bail
somebody, but now they can have a little bit more in terms of their ability to
make sure they’re not violating (bail) conditions,” Mr. Finster said.

In some cases, those suspects can
be re-arrested if they violate the parameters of their electronic monitors,
even if they have already spent 12 days in jail – the maximum currently
allowable by law without charges being filed.

Seven of the people who have had to
wear electronic monitors were sent home early from prison, which generally
happens because of good behaviour or with those convicted of more minor
offences who are let go when the prison becomes overcrowded.

Monitoring periods for early
release have so far not been very long. The longest any early release inmate
has worn such a monitor is 41 days.

Mr. Finster said, in most cases,
the criminal justice system is trying to limit the possibility that released
convicts will immediately re-offend.

“As a way to introduce them back
into society, they can have us tag that person just so we can…make sure they’re
not going to go right out and start doing bad stuff again,” he said.

The way it works

Thus far, Mr. Finster said the
monitoring system is working quite well – even if it is not being used for its
primary purpose, which was alternative sentencing.

The 911 system mainly carries out
the orders of police, the courts of the prisons in tagging released prisoners.
Once an individual receives an electronic monitoring anklet, they are kept on a
list by 911 – and that list is monitored from the emergency facility 24 hours,
seven days a week. 

The monitoring system uses GPS
technology to pinpoint a subject’s location. Parameters are set in each case as
to where that person can go and where they can’t. If they step outside the
acceptable boundaries, 911 officials are immediately notified and call in the
appropriate authorities.

Mr. Finster said there have been
incidents “almost daily” with monitored individuals stepping outside the areas
in which they are allowed to travel. Some have been simple accidents, others
have led to re-arrest.

The devices themselves are
waterproof and are not ever removed from the person’s ankle. They must be
recharged for two hours out of every 24 hour period. If a monitored subject
allows the batteries to run down, 911 is alerted.

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911 Director Brent Finster shows an electronic monitoring device.
Photo: Brent Fuller
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