I spent today in Frankfurt, Germany with over 200 people taking part in the Confederation of European Probation’s 9th Conference on electronic monitoring. The majority of the people in the room work with probation or are employed in some other fashion in what we would call the law enforcement side. But electronic monitoring, and for that matter law enforcement, are a little bit different in this group. First of all I was amazed to hear that the German government at the federal level has grave concerns about the human rights implications of electronic monitors. For example, they have only agreed to hold data captured via GPS for two months. That’s how concerned they are about abuse of the access to that data. Moreover, they don’t want police to be able to do something which seems simple to us in the U.S.- search the whereabouts of everyone in the city who is on electronic monitoring when a crime is committed to see if they are in the vicinity. To them this is a human rights witch hunt. They would demand probable cause, that is, evidence that person was in the vicinity of a crime, BEFORE, they would allow searching the location of all those who were on electronic monitoring. Without that, there is no probable cause, no search. They take human rights, at least in this regard, quite seriously.
Judge Elizer: Can Judges Really Talk Like This?
Two other issues struck me today. First, Judge Silke Elizer made what was no doubt for her a fairly innocuous comment: “when I say probation officer, I mean social worker,” speaking directly to two of her “social workers” in the audience. How long has it been since probation and parole officers were anything more than law enforcers. Have they ever been trained in counseling, in family reunification? We operate according to the punishment paradigm and social workers don’t fit in.
Dr. Lehner: A Penitentiary Man?
Then, Dr. Dominik Lehner, from the Council for Penological Cooperation, a man who has been involved in the intricacies of running penitentiaries all his life, emphasized how electronic monitoring needed regulation, that there were all kinds of threats to human rights liberty it could pose if the right guidelines were not in place. Goodness me. He could have been a prison warden but here he is going on about human rights and advocating for the EU ‘s recommendation on monitoring which is all about the rights of the monitored and making sure that people have support while on monitoring, are not just left hanging with no money, no job and an ankle bracelet. An extraordinary day-more tomorrow.