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Corrections Amendment (Electronic Monitoring) Bill 2020 No. 27

[3.01 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I will be supporting this bill, which amends the Corrections Act to provide express power for the Parole Board to impose electronic monitoring as a condition of a parole order. It is worth noting the review of the effectiveness of electronic monitoring for perpetrators of family violence. This review has, in the context of family violence orders, indicated that electronic monitoring is an effective tool for reducing reoffending among high-risk family violence perpetrators.

I note that as of November 2019, 58 family violence perpetrators, all identified as high risk, had electronic monitoring devices fitted. The data collected up to March of this year indicates that a number of perpetrators with repeat family violence breaches had ceased offending while participating in the trial. This indicates that electronic monitoring is useful and that if it works in this context, it has the potential to work in other cases such as parole.

I understand that section 72 of the act currently enables the Parole Board to make a parole order subject to such terms and conditions that the board believes to be necessary, but does not contain specific provisions relating to electronic monitoring. As a matter of delineating issues that the law actually has explicit powers to monitor, I consider this to be a positive step. By legislating the use of electronic monitoring for parolees, it also sets the boundaries of the law and minimises room for discretionary conditions to be placed on parolees.

While it is important that there is some level of monitoring of people on parole, it is also important to demarcate the boundaries and limit it only to what is necessary to ensure they are adhering to their parole conditions. It would be unusual and unnecessary to overstep what is actually being monitored. Legislating the use of electronic equipment for this purpose also indicates what can lawfully be monitored.

As has been indicated, this bill does not expand the range of controls or prohibitions that the Parole Board is already permitted to impose under the primary act. This bill provides a means to more effectively ascertain whether a parolee is complying with their conditions, and initiate an appropriate response if a breach is suspected or detected. It is important that the introduction of electronic monitoring does not unduly create further burdens or conditions with which the parolee must comply.

For example, preliminary data on the use of electronic monitoring devices for high-risk family violence perpetrators, suggests that there was an increase in low-risk breaches. This was in part attributed to issues unique to electronic monitoring devices such as not charging the device's battery. As electronic monitoring is used in more and more contexts, placing additional duties which could unfairly burden parolees will also have the effect of placing a greater strain on our parole system and police force. We do not want the cure to be worse than the disease. I am sure that as electronic monitoring continues to be used in a greater number of contexts, more things will be learned, and more effective and efficient ways of using this technology will be discovered and applied. In the meantime, however, I hope that law enforcement continues to make appropriate concessions when issues like uncharged devices arise.

I also note the use of electronic monitoring devices has been known to have perverse impacts on parolees transitioning back into society, particularly when seeking employment or other similar opportunities.

The same can be said for seeking certain types of medical tests such as X-rays, CTs or MRIs, as these tests cannot be performed on a person with an electronic monitoring device.

A balance is needed between community safety, and monitoring a parolee's progress and compliance to lessen the chances of recidivism and breaches of parole orders as they seek better opportunities for a positive and meaningful reintegration into society.

The Civil Liberties Australia submission on this bill recommended a review into the effect of these laws every two years. I believe this would be a good strategy to ensure that the laws work and are having their intended effect.

I also understand that concerns have been raised about the collection and storage of data collected by electronic monitoring devices. I know the Government is well aware of these concerns and I am sure they are being taken into account. I reiterate my support for ongoing reviews to ensure these devices are having their intended effect. I support this bill.

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