Government ‘considering alternative uses’ for £4m tags bought for early-release scheme

Written by Sam Trendall on 16 June 2020 in News

As of the beginning of this month, only 55 of eligible total of 4,000 prisoners had been let out under ECTR initiative 

Photo: PA

The prisons minister Lucy Frazer has said that the government is “considering alternative uses” for 2,000 electronic tags bought to support an early-release scheme – almost all of which have gone unused.

In early April, the government announced that, to help make space in prisons and thereby lessen the impact of coronavirus, it had identified 4,000 prisoners that could be freed under the newly created End of Custody Temporary Release programme.

To support this programme, contracts were signed with two new suppliers – Attenti EM and Buddi – to acquire a cumulative total of 2,000 electronic tags. The two firms joined Capita, which has been the main supplier of tags to the prisons system since 2014. 

Related content

Frazer last week said that the government had spent £3.8m acquiring these extra tags, which can be fitted to newly freed prisoners to ensure conditions of their release are not broken.

But, as of the start of this month, only 79 inmates had been released under the ECTR scheme, according to a recent report from the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, an arm’s-length body of the Ministry of Justice.

“Eligibility criteria and the convoluted process of early release are mired in complexity and risk aversion,” the report said. “The schemes are hard to understand, difficult to explain and close to impossible to deliver, even for a disciplined service like HM Prison and Probation Service.”

Such difficulties would explain the extremely limited uptake of the ECTR programme – which has resulted in government being left with almost 2,000 surplus tags, acquired at a cost of nearly £4m.

Frazer said: “Releases under the scheme continue and we are considering alternative uses for tags elsewhere in the criminal justice system in support of our ambition to make full use of the benefits of electronic monitoring technology.”

The prisons minister, who was answering a written question from Labour MP for Tottenham and shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, said that “the early release schemes were one element of that approach to containing the spread of the virus in prisons”.

“Given the unpredictable nature of the situation, a range of measures were introduced to provide a variety of tools that could be used to a greater or lesser extent depending on how the outbreak developed,” she added. “We have also worked to reduce numbers on remand, created extra cells, limited prisoner movements and jails have implemented ‘compartmentalisation’, meaning staff have isolated those prisoners with symptoms, shielded the vulnerable and quarantined new arrivals. These measures have helped to contain the spread of the virus and limit deaths significantly, compared to initial estimates.”


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Year in review: How technology defined 2021’s biggest stories
31 December 2021

Digital and data once again had a starring role in supporting – and, occasionally, hampering – government’s work this year. PublicTechnology looks back at the most significant events.

Regulator proposes measures to loosen Apple and Google’s ‘vice-like grip’ on mobile users
15 December 2021

CMA calls vendors to make it easier for users to switch between the two platforms

Prison transformation: MoJ agrees £12m deal for 18,000 PCs
13 January 2022

Contract signed with US-based IT reseller

Are your Christmas presents spying on you?
4 January 2022

With many around the country receiving technological gifts, experts from government anti-espionage unit UK NACE explain why smartphones are the ‘perfect eavesdropping devices’