Sat, Nov 13, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Parolee tracking system planned

CRIME PREVENTION Citing recent cases of rapes by paroled criminals, the justice ministry wants to electronically track certain parolees, perhaps even via GPS technology

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Justice is planning to put electronic tracking devices on some paroled criminals in the future to make sure that they will not repeat their offenses.

According to Vice Minister of Justice Morley Shih (施茂林), recent repeat rape cases involving paroled rapists were the main motivation for the ministry to begin working on amending the law in order to carry out the plan.

"We are planning to set up a tracking mechanism for certain criminals, such as rapists or murderers, after they are paroled," Shih said. "We want to make sure that they will not repeat their crimes again ... I think this is necessary."

The ministry's plan to put electronic tracking devices on certain criminals does not include those who have finished their jail terms.

"It will only be carried out for parolees," Shih said.

Meanwhile, since the electronic tracking device system only works within a certain range, Shih said that the ministry is also considering linking it up with the global positioning system (GPS) so that law enforcement officers will be able to locate the person being tracked anywhere.

Shih said that the ministry will organize meetings sometime next week to discuss details of the proposed amendment to the Guidance Law (觀護法). If the amendment passes, in the future, paroled rapists, murderers or even those found guilty of espionage will be forced to put on these electronic tracing devices so law enforcement officers can trace them whenever necessary.

In addition to the electronic tracking devices, the amendment to the Guidance Law would also authorize law enforcement officers to confine some parolees to their home and apartment, or put them under curfew.

How long parolees will have to wear tracking devices remains an undecided question.

"As of now, it is quite clear that rapists and murderers will have to wear them. But we are also considering asking certain suspects on bail to join the program," Shih added.

"These two kinds of criminals [rapists and murderers] have two unique characteristics in common -- they love to move around and they love to go out at night. These two characteristics may lead them to repeat their crimes and we will help avoid that," Shih continued. "We cannot put our community's safety at risk."

Local human rights activists have been complaining against the idea, Shih said, arguing that the new tracking system would deprive people of their basic human rights.

Under the law, convicted rapists must go through a rehabilitation program as they are serving their jail time. However, a study by the ministry also showed that it is very difficult to determine if a rapist is completely "rehabilitated" when he finishes his jail term.

"What we care about more is public safety," Shih said. "I cannot say that these activists' concerns are totally wrong, but we will keep communicating with them."

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