The ethical considerations of using technology in monitoring and tracking life-sentenced prisoners

Prison overcrowding is a global phenomenon that occurs when there are more prisoners than space to hold prisoners. Such conditions present a host of challenges that may adversely affect the effective rehabilitation of prisoners. This has motivated governments around the world to look at alternative solutions to relieve the prison system and reduce overcrowding in prisons.

The Council of Europe Member States developed policies that would consider imprisonment as a last resort. Prisoners serving a life sentence may qualify for this program. A life sentence depends on the jurisdiction and crime committed.

Two possible scenarios could qualify as a life sentence. The first is literal. The person will be in prison for their entire lifetime. The second simply means that they received the maximum punishment for the crime that they committed, and this maximum punishment could run for a fixed term, such as twenty years. Learn more about this if you click through this webpage.

The concept of tracking and monitoring technology was introduced as an alternative means to imprisonment. Prisoners who qualify could serve their term under house arrest. In addition, this concept was introduced to monitor prisoners’ movement inside a prison, to determine hotspots for crime and criminal activity within the system.

Why Overcrowding Is a Problem

Overcrowding in prisons may lead to several problems, including:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Increased physical contact
  • Poor hygiene practices
  • Lack of privacy in prison

Essentially, prison overcrowding is one of the leading contributors to poor prison conditions. The primary problem with overcrowding is that it leads to increased violence inside the prison, which effectively makes rehabilitation much harder.

In addition to the consequences of overcrowding mentioned above, the cost of keeping a prisoner incarcerated is directly transferred to the taxpayer.

Officials are in a position where they need to reconsider the prison system because of overcrowding. With technology revolutionizing many other industries, it has naturally been put on the table for consideration in terms of monitoring prisoners both inside and outside the prison. The goal is to monitor incarcerated prisoners to track their movement inside the prison and identify when and if they are near crime hotspots in prison at the time a crime is committed.

The tracking and monitoring system may also be effective for paroled prisoners. For example, a prisoner may be put under house arrest and remain within the parameters of the property to serve out the rest of their sentence. Each facility has its policy on the use of these systems.

Of course, there are ethical considerations to take into account when utilizing technology to monitor prisoners.

Ethical Considerations

The primary obligation that the prison system has towards society is to ensure safety for all, both inside and outside the prison. On the other hand, prisoners have certain basic rights. The system cannot infringe on these rights, such as the right to dignity and respect.

Here is what needs to be considered: when are the rights of prisoners violated through the use of these devices? If the devices are not used, does that mean that the interest of the public is not being met when prisoners are under house arrest? This is where the need for balance becomes critical.

Furthermore, the monitoring device may be considered to serve as a form of deterrent as opposed to being rehabilitative. The prisoner is confined to a specific space and may not move outside of this area. Otherwise, they will break parole. Rehabilitative processes aim to address the underlying causes of the offending behavior, thus improving the behavior of the prisoner. One might wonder how effective electronic monitoring will be at changing behavior if its sole purpose is to act as a deterrent.

Another consideration under this heading is that surveillance aims to isolate the prisoner versus attending to the basic human rights of the prisoner.

This is where privacy and the right to privacy become a concern. Electronic monitoring systems will violate the prisoners’ right to privacy by constantly monitoring and tracking the prisoners as they move around in their private space. This opens the door to misuse of the electronic monitoring system.

However, these devices are excellent at identifying prison hotspots for crime. The movement of prisoners can be monitored in real-time and stored for later use. For example, if a prison murder takes place, authorities can pull the data to view which prisoners were closest to the murder victim at the time of the murder, which may help to solve these types of crimes much faster.

The matter of stigmatization may arise for those wearing these devices. They may be viewed as dangerous or untrustworthy because they are wearing these electronic monitoring devices. This could very well lead to the further isolation of the prisoner. And it could lead to an adverse effect on their rehabilitation. This may lead to further isolation of the prisoner, which in turn may adversely affect their rehabilitation.

But, possibly the most important of all the ethical considerations is how effective the device is. And what then, about the dignity of the prisoner when using such a device? It’s no secret that wearing these devices is often described as dehumanizing or causes the offender wearing the device to feel demoralized.

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