On Thursday, 16 October, the Saeima in the second and final reading adopted urgent amendments to the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law introducing electronic monitoring of convicted individuals as an alternative to imprisonment.
The amendments modify the system for granting conditional release, and they offer an alternative option for convicted persons who pose a low or medium threat to society and who have achieved a specific level of re-socialisation. This means that in certain cases it will be possible to serve part of a sentence in confinement and part within society under strict supervision and close monitoring of the convicted individual’s location and movement by means of an electronic monitoring system.
“This reform will help to reduce the number of prisoners and the associated costs. In many countries this system has been working successfully for several years. By adapting the experience of other countries to local circumstances, we have an opportunity not only to reduce our spending on prisons but also to promote the integration of convicted individuals in society. It must be pointed out that conditional release will not be granted automatically but rather will be based on scrupulous evaluation of a convicted individual’s progress in achieving re-socialisation,” said Andrejs Judins, Chairman of the Criminal Law Policy Subcommittee of the Legal Affairs Committee.
Electronic monitoring will be applied only if the convicted individual consents, if it is technically feasible to ensure monitoring at the convict’s place of residence and if monitoring is expected to promote the convict’s re-socialisation.
According to the amendments, the court will decide on conditional release with electronic monitoring, while the State Probation Service will stipulate applicable terms. This means that the scope of responsibilities and duties of the State Probation Service will be substantially expanded.
From now on, the terms of conditional release will no longer be set by the court but by the State Probation Service, which has more information about the convict, his/her emotional health and behavioural patterns. The amendments envisage that the terms may inter alia include being at one’s place of residence at specific hours, staying away from specified locations, and undergoing treatment for addictions.
In comparison with other countries, Latvia has a large proportion of convicts who serve the full term without conditional release. In 2012, only 14% of all convicts were granted conditional release. This can be attributed to the fact that most of the prisoners have been convicted for grave or extremely grave crimes. The Ministry of Justice also points out that there is a very strict statutory procedure for granting conditional release.
On 2 October, the Saeima already adopted the relevant amendments to the Sentence Execution Code of Latvia and the State Probation Service Law.
The amendments to the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law will enter into force on 1 February 2015.
Saeima Press Service