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Daily structure a positive component of GPS and alcohol monitoring

By Jennifer Pritchett, Associate Editor

GPS and alcohol monitoring enables a timely flow of objective information to confirm compliance and detect violations for individuals involved in the criminal and family justice systems, says Steve Tan, partner with Recovery Science Corporation (RSC).

Electronic monitoring for use in bail hearings is gaining ground in various provinces across Canada, he says. Criminal courts in five provinces have granted bails with monitoring from Recovery Science Corporation.

"From the perspective of the criminal justice system, that's money saved from keeping people in overcrowded jails," he says. "From the perspective of the person proposing electronic monitoring at a bail hearing, it gives them a better chance to satisfy the court with a sufficient plan in accordance with their constitutional right to a reasonable bail. Once released, it also gives them a chance to continue to prove their compliance."

He explains that at contested bail hearings, the Crown will often express the reasonable concern that the monitoring can't prevent someone breaching their conditions.

“And we concede that the monitoring doesn't do that,” he says. “Electronic monitoring enables a flow of objective information to confirm compliance and detect violations. Because law enforcement receives this information, and the person being monitored knows that, they are more likely to comply with court-ordered terms.”

Tan says the courts have adopted this reasoning in cases where bail was granted, and where bail was denied.

He points to R. v. Feldhoff, [2013] O.J. No. 6491, in which the court, in detaining an accused charged with murder on the tertiary ground, noted that GPS monitoring does not guarantee that an accused will comply with his or her bail conditions; it is designed to manage risk and there is no doubt that it can provide the court and the general public with a degree of confidence that an accused will abide by the terms of their bail.

In R. v. Lesniak, [2012] O.J. No. 6687, the court noted that electronic monitoring is not without risk, but that sureties are not foolproof either, and that the wearing of a bracelet is a constant reminder to the accused that their liberty is not without restrictions and that detection is more likely than it would be without monitoring.

While risk management and deterrence are often discussed, daily structure as a positive factor is less obvious, but can be a meaningful component during a person's time on bail in the community.

Tan says the company has received feedback from accused persons and their families about the impact monitoring had on them.

"In one of the bail cases where we provided house-arrest monitoring, the mother – and surety of a man charged with robbery – said she was surprised at how much of a different person he was on bail and attributed it to his having structure for once in his life," he says.

In another case, a mother and surety of a man charged with trafficking weapons said that being on bail gave her son a chance to be with his family away from the city and to understand the responsibility of being part of a family structure, Tan says.

"The mother also thought it made him realize what he had been missing in his life, and what he wanted in the future," he says. "It certainly brought them together, and gave them the time they needed to face the future. He saw first-hand how just one act can impact and change a family. The mother said, 'It would have been so much worse if we hadn't had the time together to prepare for his incarceration.'"

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