Sentenced four times for domestic violence, Terry Dupin was serving his final sentence – 16 months in prison, 8 of which were suspended – under an electronic bracelet. Just like the suspect of Hayange’s recent femicide (Moselle). Both were two of the 14,315 home detainees under electronic surveillance (DDSE) identified in early May by the Ministry of Justice. A device that is still a minority compared to the entire prison population (around 65,000 people in French prisons) but has been steadily increasing since its launch in 1997. For better or for worse.
“Since the 2020 law on programming and reform for justice, there is a very strong incentive to execute sentences using electronic bracelets,” notes Ivan Guitz, president of the national association of judges for the enforcement of sentences ( ANJAP). Up to 6 months in prison, it has become the rule and up to a year it is the principle. Attractive in many ways, the device should be handled with care. “The bracelet makes it possible to fight against the desocializing effect of short sentences, in particular because it allows the convicted person to continue working. It also helps to relieve the prisons ”, greets Ivan Guitz. “But we have undoubtedly reached the limit,” continues this magistrate who practices in Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis). Not all profiles are eligible. You not only need to have stable housing, but also to be able to discipline yourself. It is also necessary to benefit from an adapted family environment because it is a factor of tension. “
Technically, the system works thanks to the radio waves emitted by the electronic bracelet. The box, attached to the home and connected to a telephone line, acts as a receiver. If the signal becomes too weak or even zero, outside of the allotted times, an alarm is sent to the central monitoring pole, one per region. “In this case, a supervisor makes a phone call to the inmate via his box to remove doubts,” explains Dorothée Dorléacq, CGT national secretary for probation. In the absence of a response, an alert is sent to the prison service in charge, then to the judge responsible for the application of sentences and to the prosecutor’s office concerned. Without news within 24 or 48 hours, the individual may be considered an escapee. “
“It allows me to go to work from 11 am to 8 pm at night and to live with my family”
Anthony (the first name has been changed), in his fifties, do not intend to dress up, ankle bracelet. Sentenced in 2017 to ten years in prison, he benefits from an eight-month electronic probationary surveillance at home, an intermediate stage before being released on parole. “I live, day and night, with the equivalent of a big watch on my ankle,” he explains. It’s painless, just a little annoying at night when I turn in my bed. Above all, it allows me to go to work from 11 in the morning to 8 in the evening and to live with my family. This system results from a contract of confidence that I signed with the judge. If I betray him, I go back to where I came from. On weekends and on public holidays, I have five hours of freedom of movement, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. “
A regime quite comparable to the confinement rules that the entire population has known in recent months. With a few differences, however. “I live in an apartment and there is no question of going for a drink at my neighbor’s house outside of free hours,” Anthony evacuates. Within a few meters, the box would spot my distance immediately and it would send an alarm. “Since the return of good weather, a detail crumbles this inmate at home. “In winter, it’s easy to hide your bracelet in plain sight. But when you want to go to the beach or put on shorts, it becomes very complicated. Some inmates don’t care, I don’t… ”But what seems right for Anthony may prove difficult for others. Especially for the youngest prisoners, subjected to the temptations of a social and sentimental life worthy of their age.
“We are seeing massive use of electronic surveillance, first of all for financial reasons”
“We are seeing massive use of electronic surveillance, first of all for financial reasons, because a day under a bracelet costs society less than a day in prison,” said Julien Magnier, national secretary CGT integration probation. But for detainees without benchmarks, psychologically unstable or subjected to addictions, it can become hell, for themselves and especially for others. The proof with this new business in Dordogne. “
Still, the strong trend is towards the diversification, still marginal, of the use of electronic bracelets. Between house arrest reserved for indicted persons and anti-rapprochement bracelets (BAR), used as a tool for preventing domestic violence. As for individuals considered to be the most dangerous, they may exceptionally be placed under mobile electronic surveillance. One way to monitor their movements 24 hours a day and deny them access to certain areas. At least in theory.