Opinion: An ankle bracelet for robbers

POSTED: 08/4/11 3:00 PM

The Robbery Taskforce in the Netherlands, a platform that unites representatives from the police, the public prosecutor’s office, municipalities and the business community announced yesterday a plan to monitor robbers for an additional two years after they have served their prison sentence by putting an electronic ankle bracelet on them.

The Taskforce says that extended supervision is necessary because 80 percent of all convicted robbers return to a life of crime after their release. According to chief commissioner Frans Heeres it is only a matter of time before the first ankle bracelet will be issued.

But not everybody favors this solution. A spokesman for the Rehabilitation Bureau told the Volkskrant that ankle bracelets ought to be used in combination with supervision. He said an ankle bracelet alone is useless if the robber is not subjected to a program geared towards changing his behavior.

Attorneys say that the ankle bracelet will only result in postponing future problems. Once the bracelet is removed after two years, the robber is still able to return to his old ways. Attorneys also argue that clamping on an ankle bracelet after someone has served his sentence amounts to bypassing the courts. “This way, judges become a redundant luxury,” one attorney said.

The number of robberies in the Netherlands decreased in the first half year by 16 percent from 1,326 to 1,120. Jewelers were among the unlucky victims: the number of robberies in this category went up by more than 60 percent from 36 to 58.

The rehabilitation bureau in St. Maarten is able to handle ten clients with ankle bracelet at a time. More is not possible. The system is expensive, and not everybody qualifies for electronic supervision. Also, the Rehabilitation Bureau needs enough staff to monitor the bracelet-wearers.

Basic conditions to qualify for a bracelet are that the sentence must be for relatively light offenses, the criminal must have a fixed address (other than Pointe Blanche), his family must cooperate, and they must be willing to accept supervision. Other conditions are that the criminal may not have an alcohol or drug addiction or a serious psychiatric disorder, and he must be at least sixteen years of age.

The bracelet program has of course come up as an alternative for incarceration in St. Maarten as well, but it simply is not practical. So far, the bracelets have been used in selected cases as an alternative for prison time. Extending this program to, like the Dutch Taskforce wants, criminals who have served their sentence and for a period of no less than two years is something that is simply not going to happen over here.

All the same, we will keep an eye on the Dutch program to see how it works and what its effects are.

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