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Serving a prison sentence with an ankle bracelet: a success? -News


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In the future, unconditional sentences of up to twelve months can be served in confinement at home. The Federal Court decided that.

It’s all about this: In future, more people in Switzerland will be able to serve their sentence at home with an ankle bracelet instead of in prison. This is ensured by a new key decision from the Federal Court. Accordingly, the unconditional part of the sentence when served with electrical monitoring can be up to twelve months. Previously, an ankle bracelet was only possible if the total prison sentence did not exceed one year. The Federal Court is thus aligning its jurisprudence with that on semi-imprisonment.

The specific case


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The Federal Court ruled in a case in which a woman was sentenced to 36 months in prison by the Bern High Court, including ten months without fail. The woman was unsuccessful in her request to serve the ten months with an ankle bracelet (electronic monitoring) before the cantonal authorities and was taken to the Federal Court. This decided that with the sanctions law that came into force at the beginning of 2018, prison sentences of up to one year can be carried out, among other things, in the form of electronic monitoring – and this refers to the unconditional part of a prison sentence. In the present case, ten months.

Additional conditions: In order for a sentence to be served with an ankle bracelet instead of in prison, certain requirements must be met. There should be no risk of escape. There must also be no risk that the convicted person will commit further crimes. Furthermore, she must have regular work, training or employment for at least 20 hours per week or it must be possible to be assigned one. Last but not least, adults living in the same apartment as the convicted person must consent to electronic monitoring.

The people need a lot of discipline – they have to stick to the given times, coordinate with each other and look ahead.

The consequences of the verdict: “We expect that there will now be more applications from convicted criminals for electrical monitoring,” says Anna Katarina Wenger. She heads electronic surveillance using ankle bracelets in the canton of Bern. The prisons in the canton of Bern are currently almost 99 percent full, which is why the canton expects the Federal Court’s key decision to ease the burden on the prisons. But it’s not about saving money, emphasizes Wenger – even if serving a prison sentence with an ankle bracelet is cheaper for the general public than a prison sentence.

Not always suitable: Wenger emphasizes that serving a prison sentence with an ankle bracelet is very demanding for those affected. “The people need a lot of discipline – they have to stick to the given times, coordinate with each other and look ahead.” In contrast, the day in prison is timed and organized without any input. Not everyone affected is able to organize themselves when it comes to electrical monitoring. Some therefore needed social work support. The aim of punishment is also crime prevention and re-integration.

We are very close to those affected: there is an on-call service available to them in the evenings and on weekends.

Good results: Even if there is no 100% success rate in any area of ​​human activity – for Wenger, electrical monitoring is a great success. However, she cannot give exact figures for the termination of sentences served with ankle bracelets. After all: “We are very close to those affected: we sometimes have daily contact with them, and there is an on-call service available to them in the evenings and on weekends.” In this way, one tries to achieve the desired progress after the sentence has been served.

The conclusion: “Serving an unconditional prison sentence with an ankle bracelet is suitable for people who want to change something, are in an environment worth preserving and have a regular job,” summarizes Wenger. This could reduce costs for the general public, reduce the burden on prisons and also enable more intensive work to be done with convicts on crime prevention. “We talk and work with them regularly – and in this way we try to achieve resocialization.”

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