ALL serious sex offenders on parole are now subject to 24/7 GPS tracking and enhanced supervision in a NSW Government bid to boost extended supervision and community safety.
It is a $21.8 million investment announced last week by the government and will deliver an expanded External and Electronic Monitoring Group with additional staff and equipment, as well as extra Community Corrections officers.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the funding was an investment in community safety as part the 2019-20 NSW Budget.
"We have the toughest parole and extended supervision laws in the country and the NSW Liberals and Nationals will continue to keep safety as our top priority by delivering measures in line with community expectations," Mr Perrottet said.
Wagga Neighbourhood Watch president Wayne Deaner has welcomed the investment.
"It's a good thing - the $21.8 million seems a little bit extraordinary but we must remember the safety of our children is paramount," Mr Deaner said.
"You can't put a dollar value on a child's life or well-being or risk their safety.
"It's a good idea, especially for repeat offenders."
You can't put a dollar value on a child's life or well-being or risk their safety.Wayne Deaner, Wagga Neighbourhood Watch president
Mr Deaner said he would also like to see EM technology implemented for other serious types of offences.
The mandatory electronic monitoring of serious sex offenders on parole was implemented in February and applies to offenders who are defined under the Crimes (High Risk Offenders) Act 2006.
The tough new approach in supervising these offenders also includes mandatory reporting of all parole breaches - except administrative breaches - to the State Parole Authority.
Previously, it was up to parole officers' discretions in reporting offenders' parole breach.
Wagga resident and former federal law enforcement officer Matt Nolte said having tracking mechanisms for Corrections Services is a positive.
"One of the benefits is that it'd allow more availability for police resources for other matters," Mr Nolte said.
"If anything did happen and they're [offenders] on a list of persons of interest, then police would have real-time data."
However, Mr Nolte said it would also be ideal for the government to publish more information about how that $21.8 million will be invested and the returns on investment.
"In relation to the public's point of view, the government needs to make available statistics about how effective it is to instill public confidence," he said.
Research in favour of technology
In a 2017 research paper, leading criminology researcher Lorana Bartels and Marietta Martinovic from Canberra and RMIT universities, respectively, found that while EM in Australia has not been used as widely as other countries, it has shown to be effective in addressing offenders' criminogenic needs and in engaging them with more prosocial forms of behaviour.
"Foremost, these sanctions have fewer 'social costs' than prisons as offenders are better able to retain valuable family and community ties by remaining at home," the paper reads.
"They are also kept out of 'crime schools', which is particularly significant for younger offenders."
However, the paper concludes that EM technology should not be viewed as a deterrent tool in itself.
"This form of technology should be utilised as a surveillance strategy in the context of a sanction and combined with treatment and rehabilitative methods," it reads.
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said he agreed with the treasurer's decision to further invest in monitoring sex offenders.
"Studies have shown that rehabilitation initiatives do not always work and this is a practical step the state can take towards supporting those most vulnerable and those most at risk in our community," Dr McGirr said.
"In addition to working toward a better supported and safer communities, there is also the possibility that these devices could help reduce prison populations and decrease the negative psychological effects of prison life on offenders with the potential to rehabilitate.
"However, as we saw in Darwin, earlier this month, the electronic monitoring of high-risk criminals is not a perfect system.
"While a criminal's every move is being tracked, there may not be enough time for the police to intervene if a decision is made to re-offend.
"While this is clearly not a perfect solution to stemming the risk of high-risk criminals re-offending, I see it as a step in the right direction."
However, he said that he would want to see more research about EM's effectiveness and its psychological, ethical and legal implications before pushing for its adoption in other situations.
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