Can Electronic Monitoring Reduce Reoffending?
In our baseline model, the window over which reoffending is measured is 24 months of free-time, where free-time is defined as time spent in the community. For those who serve their sentence in prison, free-time begins at the date of release. For those who served their sentence under electronic monitoring, free-time begins at the date that their case is finalized because a sentence of electronic monitoring is served in the community. While living in the community permits reoffending for both prison releasees and those who are serving their sentence under electronic monitoring, it is important to recognise that the later group are subject to a greater degree of specific deterrence while serving their sentence. This is because (1) detection of reoffending is highly likely while under the monitoring; and (2) reoffending is a serious breach of the conditions of electronic monitoring and, irrespective of the type of offence, results in immediate referral to the Parole Board and likely revocation of electronic monitoring, with a prison term equal to the balance of the original prison sentence less time served under electronic monitoring imposed.13 This swift and certain punishment creates a specific deterrence effect for those serving a sentence under electronic monitoring for the duration of the monitoring sentence that is absent for prison releasees.14 In order to get a sense of the importance of this on our baseline findings, we consider an alternative measure of reoffending in which free-time begins at the date of completion of electronic monitoring sentences, and at the date of release for prison sentences. Similarly, the specific deterrent effect of prison may be diminished by previous experience of imprisonment, including while awaiting trial (Dobbie et al. , 2018). Alternatively, those who have been previously incarcerated may view serving a sentence under electronic monitoring as a “second chance”, to which they respond by reducing reoffending (Henneguelle et al. , 2016). We investigate the extent to which our findings are impacted by previous incarceration in our sensitivity analysis.
13Serious or recurring minor breaches of conditions of electronic monitoring are immediately referred to the Parole Board for revocation. There are strict time lines for breach reports to be provided to the Parole Board and for the Parole Board to make their determination. In determining whether a breach has occurred, the Parole Board applies the administrative standard of proof, which is based on the “balance of probabilities” (Studerus, 1997).
14Evidence on the deterrence effect of swift and certain punishment in the context of Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program is reported by Hawken & Kleiman (2009) and in the context of South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project by Kilmer et al. (2013).