Kazakhstan Boosts Use of Electronic Bracelets in Penal Reforms
Remote electronic monitoring of convicts has launched in Kazakhstan as the country works to humanise its criminal and penal systems. The monitoring will be used in accordance with the new criminal and penal codes adopted in July that went into effect on Jan. 1.
The use of remote monitoring is part of efforts to reform criminal and penal legislation in Kazakhstan, including through the wider use of non-punitive measures. Electronic monitoring bracelets will be used to track three categories of convicts: those sentenced to restricted freedom, given a suspended sentence or released from prison on parole. Seven specific types of tracking devices were approved by government decree in November, and their use is strictly defined.
Remote electronic monitoring is part of the new probation system first introduced into the country’s legislation in February 2012, when, as the country liberalised, efforts began to be made to impose punishments without isolating convicts from society. As part of reform efforts, amendments and additions were made to 10 different laws. The General Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Interior have also been trying to increase the use of non-custodial sentences in the course of enacting more proportional punishments. Probation has been shown to be more effective and less expensive than imprisonment for more minor crimes.
Extensive research into the European experience of using electronic monitoring informs Kazakhstan’s new codes.
The use of monitoring bracelets in Kazakhstan is expected to help decrease the number of people in jails and significantly reduce expenses. According to Deputy Prosecutor General Zhakip Assanov, the government now spends $3,167 per prisoner, per year.
Criminal policy in Kazakhstan today is geared toward humanising engagement in the system and bringing down the number of persons condemned to imprisonment by increasing the use of other forms of custodial punishment. Expanded probation services and electronic monitoring options are seen as key developments in reducing prison populations and humanising the law, one of the major goals of government and law enforcement bodies.
In 2013, 7,000 offenders were on probation in Kazakhstan. Following the application of the new criminal code, the number of probationers is expected to reach 50,000.
The new penal code defines probation as a set of social and legal measures enforced at an individual’s place of residence and supervised by a police officer. While on probation, offenders run the risk of being sent back to prison for breaking any rules.
Electronic monitoring is also seen as a correctional tool, particularly in helping people develop more self-control and comply with court-imposed restrictions. Probation, therefore, is not only an effort to execute non-custodial control, but also an attempt to provide social and legal assistance to probationers and help them access education, employment and medical care. That assistance is intended to foster prisoners’ social rehabilitation and prevent and reduce new crimes. Probation and monitoring works best when supported by trained probation services with the resources to supervise and advise offenders.
To assess probationers, officers look at their profiles, explain the social and legal assistance and obligations provided by the court and develop an individual assistance programme. Probation officers are to cooperate with local municipalities and have the right to establish job quotas for probationers. State agencies will also support their work with the help of nongovernmental organisations.
Kazakhstan has already reduced its prison population from 140,000 to 49,000 since independence, though it still ranks only 31st on the global prison population list, with 316 prisoners per 100,000 people, a rather high indicator.
Law enforcement bodies must now decide where to buy electronic monitoring devices and arrange for their procurement. It has been reported that authorities are now planning to set up local production of electronic bracelets instead of purchasing the devices abroad.