Sweden is poised to revolutionize its penitentiary system with GPS-based "electronic shackles," Swedish Radio reported. This is a major technical improvement over the previous system, which has been in place since 1994.
According to Swedish law, a person who has been sentenced to up to six months' imprisonment doesn't necessarily have to serve the complete term in prison, but may instead remain outside, confined to a limited number of places, such as home, work or study.
The new, modernized version, enhanced with GPS, provides "significantly better" opportunities to monitor those who are sentenced. The system is expected to cover several thousand Swedes each year.
Fredrik Wilhelmsson, head of the protection department at the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, is looking forward to positive changes.
"With GPS, we will have control over the client, both at home and away from home, en route to the workplace. One big advantage is that we can determine zones where you are allowed to be and zones where you are not allowed," Fredrik Wilhelmsson said.
According to Fredrik Wilhelmsson, the device will be based on a regular smartphone, with special apps installed. This will make possible keeping track of the "client's" school progress or work record, while also contacting him when necessary.
Wilhelmsson said that while no system is foolproof, he himself has worn the "electronic shackles" for five months and found no way of tricking it.
Emma Ekstrand of the department for non-institutional care concurred that the system has many advantages.
"Overall, it gives a quite low percentage of relapses. About 80 percent of those serving their sentence with electronic shackles never return to the Prison and Probation Service, which is quite a good result," Ekstrand said.
According to Ekstrand, many prefer "electronic shackles" to traditional prison sentences. Above all, she explained, it is people having a "decent life," who want to continue working and providing care to their families.
At present, the number of inmates wearing "electronic shackles" is estimated at about 600-700. The new technology, which will be fully implemented, will allow for greatly expanding their number.