Lawmakers asked to OK use of ankle locators for prisoners

The executive branch is seeking to get legislative approval for the use of ankle bracelets in part to solve the problem of crowded prisons.

Hernando París, minister of Justicia y Gracia, explained the proposal at a meeting last week of the Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad y Narcotráfico. The bill is No. 17.665.

The bracelets are those electronic devices that keep track of an individual’s location.

Paris noted that accommodations have increased by 1,014 prison spaces this year alone but the need is increasing more rapidly. In the last two years, the prison population increased 30 percent among adults. Juveniles in confinement increased 300 percent, he said.

The use of bracelets would relieve some of the space problem, he told the committee.

Judges frequently require suspects in liberty to sign in with prosecutors every 15 days. Not all do, and this system is not kept up with equal vigor in every prosecutor’s office. The ankle bracelets would be monitored from a central office.

Paris noted that the use of the bracelet would be helpful in cases of domestic violence where one partner, usually the man, is ordered to stay away from the home. There have been a series of killings by men who have been the object of a restraining order. The ankle bracelet would give warning when the man approached his former home.
Police Monday just arrested a man in Puriscal who has been set free after being accused of beating up an infant. One of the conditions of his freedom was that he stay out of Puriscal where the mother and baby live. He did not, and police officers found him living there Monday. Had he been wearing an ankle bracelet, he may have been found sooner.

Costa Rica also employes various types of conditional freedom. A convicted murderer died from police bullets last week when he was fleeing from sticking up a bar. He was on conditional freedom but clearly violated the terms.

There are other variations of what is called in Spanish the régimen de confianza. Sometimes prisoners are allowed to leave the institution to go to work on the condition that they return after the job. Others are released a couple of days at a time.

Prison officials say that this time of reintroduction to society is valuable. The prisons are run by an agency called Adaptación Social which is part of the ministry headed by Paris.

He also told lawmakers that the locator ankle bracelets would not be used on juvenile offenders.

There are Internet postings by people who claim that the ankle bracelet can be defeated by various means. Some say it can be wrapped with a wet towel. Others said they can slip the device off their leg.

Paris did not mention the cost of the program which would include not only the devices but the central monitoring offices and salaries for the 24-hour observers.

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