Howard's pounds 1m 'fiasco'

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The Independent Online
POWERS to tag offenders and suspects electronically will be expanded substantially next year, despite claims that the American-inspired alternative to prison has been "an expensive fiasco", writes Nick Cohen.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, will announce that the pounds 1.3m pilot project for the electronic monitoring of criminals placed under a house arrest order will be extended for another year, Home Office sources said. An extra pounds 1m will be spent on the experiment and all the courts in Greater Manchester, Berkshire and Norfolk will be given powers to fit tags.

Meanwhile, officials in the Home Office Probation Division are drawing up plans to tag all prisoners released on parole.

Ministers' and civil servants' enthusiasm for tagging has not been mirrored in the courts, however. The present tagging experiment, which began in June, has seen magistrates impose just 17 tagging orders in six months.

In theory, tagged criminals should set off alarms in private security companies' control rooms if they break their curfews by moving out of range of the tag-monitoring transmitters in their homes. In practice, however, only a minority of the few defendants who have been tagged have abided by the orders to stay at home.

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