Electronic monitoring and the problem of net-widening

Beyens, K. (Keynote speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


One of the commonly stated goals of measures which rely on EM is to reduce prison populations but the relationship between the use of EM and prison population levels is complex. Measures which rely on EM may divert individuals from prison but they are just as likely to be used as an alternative to other non-custodial measures and sanctions thereby supplementing rather than replacing the use of prison. Even if measures which rely on EM act as a direct alternative to imprisonment, breach and recall rates might increase prison populations through the ‘backdoor’ and by ‘up-tariffing’ individuals who go on to reoffend thereby contributing to the ‘revolving doors’ of imprisonment. Indeed, countries which have the highest use of EM measures also have high rates of imprisonment but this does not prove a causal relationship between the two and it is unknown how much higher the population might have been without the existence of EM. Net-widening (Cohen, 1979; 1985) – the extension of the state’s involvement in the lives of its citizen’s through the use of community sentences is an often heard criticism of EM. This session will explore the extent to which Cohen’s original ‘dispersal of discipline’ thesis is a useful tool to assist our understanding of the ways in which EM has been, and might be, used in the future and its potential to work as an alternative to imprisonment. It will also question whether net-widening matters when EM might fulfil other equally important goals.
Period18 Apr 2018
Event title11th European Electronic Monitoring Conference: Blurring boundaries; making and breaking connections
Event typeConference
LocationZagreb, Croatia
Degree of RecognitionInternational