Electronic tagging 'changes needed to save money'

An electronic tag on a leg The report says it is 10 times more expensive per offender to tag in England and Wales than in the US

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The system of electronic monitoring of offenders in England and Wales should be changed to save millions of pounds, a think tank has suggested.

Policy Exchange said the current arrangements were too expensive and had failed to cut re-offending.

It says £70m would be saved if tagging were done by police or probation officers instead of private firms.

The government said that from April new contracts for electronic monitoring would represent better value.

The Future of Corrections report said much of the potential benefits of tagging had not been realised.

Electronic monitoring of offenders, which includes ankle tags and satellite technology, is provided by companies G4S and Serco.

The report says almost £70m a year would be freed up if the firms handed over the technology so that police and probation officers could monitor and fit the ankle tags instead.

It said this would then pay for 2,000 probation officers or 1,200 additional police officers to work on offender management.

The report added that officers should also be able to make recommendations to courts and prison governors on who ought to be tagged.

'Victims reassurance'

Policy Exchange said that for each offender, electronic monitoring cost £13.14 per monitored day in England and Wales, while the equivalent in the US was £1.22.

Rory Geoghegan, the report's author, said: "Extending the use of tagging without these reforms will just see millions of pounds wasted and a real opportunity to cut crime missed."

Chris Miller, a former assistant chief constable who spoke for police chiefs on tagging, said: "What we have been given instead is a sclerotic, centrally controlled, top-down system that has enriched two or three large suppliers, that lacks the innovation and flexibility of international comparators, and that fails to demonstrate either that it is value for money or that it does anything to reduce offending."

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said new guidelines being introduced "call for a smarter, more integrated approach that takes advantage of the latest technology".

"Properly administered, new generation tagging can promote improved behaviour and give victims reassurance," he said.

'Robust alternative'

The critical report comes after G4S was awarded a five-year £13m contract by the Scottish government last week to run hi-tech new tags with GPS technology, giving authorities the ability to continuously track offenders' whereabouts.

Richard Morris, group managing director of G4S Care and Justice Services, said: "The use of electronic monitoring in England and Wales actually saves the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds each year by providing a robust alternative to expensive prison custody for offenders who are deemed suitable for tagging.

"We have also worked closely with the Ministry of Justice over the years to introduce innovations and changes to the original service which have resulted in improved value for money."

G4S monitors more than 50,000 people in more than 15 countries, he added.

Serco said it did not wish to comment.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    288.Pete - "...............So there are studies citing other studies and no doubt there will be studies which cite the studies which cited other studies . I bet nothing changes."

    Indeed, we the public as a while much prefer our gut instincts to actual evidence......the world would be so much better if we believed in evidence based policy making.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    So this is a case of a Labour government just signing any contract put in front of it and reading or assessing how much the long term outcome of the PPI-esque scheme actually costs? It's flabbergasting how easily tax money is poured down the drain by Whitehall and Civil Servants in every department from military to the NHS to the police. No accountability whatsoever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    #277 sadly the report proves nothing of the sort. The correct answer is that it is better to outsource some services than others. Even where the private sector might be better/cheaper there may be moral arguments against outsourcing (front line army for example).

    The real question is why the difference between US costs and UK costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    @293.MXI,I believe that if you look at when the G4S contract was signed it was signed by the last Labour government nothing to do with the current administration, and you can hardley say the SNP is giving these contracts to G4S because they are 'friends'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Conservative think tank Policy Exchange say that it would be cheaper if the public sector handled supervision of criminals than the if they were farmed out to the private sector! Amazing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Instead of a tag , what about a very heavy ball and chain?
    Only if they have to pay for the damage it does to the footpaths and roadways

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    . . . "almost £70m a year would be freed up if . . . police and probation officers could monitor and fit the ankle tags instead [of G4S or Serco]"

    So public services are better & cheaper than private providers; haven't the govt read this report or dont they want facts to get in the way of ideological warfare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    More outsourcing to the governments chums network making the taxpayer loose more money. Its crazy......... Will it stop? Never! Until every last penny from the bank of England is nestled away in the Seychelles, and we get blamed for paying our plumber cash. Now I am just off to swear at a policeman just for doing their job.

    LETS GET THESE JOKERS OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    We need to teach criminals about living in our society. They need to know that their behavour is not acceptable.

    We need to beat them with birches, ropes and sticks. Every time someone beats a child or a 96 year-old lady, we need to beat them to a pulp. That'll show them that there's no place for violence in our society.

    I vote Looney Party. Join us. Vote for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    286. Larry Niven was pretty smart.

    There was a prison in the US where they made all the prisoners wear pink jumpsuits. This was before pink got reclaimed or whatever by the metrosexuals, but apparently, it reduced prison violence a fair bit.

    Maybe instead of exploding the tag could inflate into a giant replica of Mr Blobby, or play endless showtunes something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    I defy anybody to name one example of a private company enhancing a public service. The very idea is ludicrous,service charge plus profit has to cost more than just the cost of providing the service yet still we have governments falling over themselves to place public services in private hands whose motivation is not effective service but profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    @284 It costs over £150 per day to keep someone in prison. Even at this stupidly inflated tagging price, it's cheaper, especially if they can attend some form of rehabilitative education to reduce the chance of reoffending. But we shouldn't let G4S and Serco rip us off. Let the probation service or the police handle it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.


    "The following study, which sites several more studies, will show that the deterrent effect is based on how likely you are to be caught, not the subsequent punishment:"

    So there are studies citing other studies and no doubt there will be studies which cite the studies which cited other studies . I bet nothing changes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    I do love how topics like this always illicit the same two general flavours of response:

    1.) This is proof that privatisation does not provide the good value service that it is always sold on. How many more times are idiots going to fall for this at our expense?

    2.) This is proof that we should bring back the birch/hanging/gulags.

    I mean, I hope it's both, but I don't think it is.

  • Comment number 286.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    The difference in costs in the UK £13.14, compared to the USA £1.22 is staggering.

    We could ship people over to the States, Tag them there and save money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    Another failed labour policy, can't be that expensive to put brick and mortar together and build some cells, even if it's only a few weeks for a sentence it's best to keep them out of the public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    So many people insist on claiming that more severe punishments would reduce crime by deterring would be criminals, yet there is no evidence for such claims.

    The following study, which sites several more studies, will show that the deterrent effect is based on how likely you are to be caught, not the subsequent punishment:


  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    The advantage of tagging is that they can keep people in the community and functional and away from other criminals, assuming they are actually contributing to society in the first place. If they're on benefits then I guess it's a zero-sum game. People who breach the conditions should be banged up as if they had broken the terms of their probation. Why are these simple things made so complicated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    19 Doctor Bob
    Make the prisons tough and arrange work for prisoners so they pay for their keep
    So it would be like modern-day Britain, only with a job? What's the incentive to stay out again?


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