Towards reforms of criminal procedure the Ministry of Justice has adopted a new approach according to which the punitive policies in the administration of justice are replaced by restorative justice policy. It implies that depriving a person of liberty should be a measure of last resort. Non-custodial measures can be more effective both in terms of reducing costs of keeping people in places of detention and the possibility of such persons to rehabilitate in future.
On June 6, the law on “Probation” entered into force. According to it, the State Probation Service should be established on the basis of the Alternative Sanctions Enforcement Division under the Ministry of Justice of Armenia. It will operate as an independent part of the criminal penal system i and the workers will be identified as civil servants.
Probation service offers an alternative to imprisonment, which is used in various stages of the criminal justice implementation.
Probation can be applied to persons accused or convicted of crimes of lesser or medium-range gravity, which are estimated as low risk and do not represent serious danger to society.
During the probation period the offender is living at liberty, but he or she is placed under Probation Service’s surveillance and obeys to certain rules and requirements. The person is not completely off from his/her daily life and the environment, which contributes to more rapid rehabilitation in future.
Among the different ways to exercise effective supervision over offenders on probation there is electronic monitoring, the application methods and conditions of which are described in the 11th Chapter of the Law on Probation.
What is electronic monitoring?
"Electronic monitoring" is a form of control over a person involved in the criminal justice process through modern techniques and technologies, by tracking his/her location, movements and behavior. Monitoring is usually carried out with an electronic device attached to a person or his/her residence and having a remote control.
The legislation includes new pretrial restraining measures alternative to detention on remand. These are house arrest and administrative supervision, which is implemented and monitored through electronic monitoring.
When is it applied?
According to the Law on “Probation” of RA electronic monitoring is applied:
- as a restraining measure alternative to detention on remand and a security measure during pre-trial and trial stages of criminal proceedings,
- as a mean of surveillance combined with the execution of a punishment during the execution stage
- at the post-penitentiary stage
Who applies the electronic monitoring?
The application of electronic surveillance combined with restraining measures alternative to detention on remand is entrusted to the Court in accordance to the procedure specified in the Criminal Procedure Code (Article 134-136).
Other authorized bodies also have a right to file a motion in the court requesting to apply the electronic monitoring;
- Electronic surveillance is applied by a decision of the court upon the motion of the prosecutor, the defense or at the initiative of the court to the persons on probation on matters of execution of a sentence, conditional non-execution of the sentence, exemption of a sentence, parole due to early conditional release or the deferral of a sentence.
- Electronic surveillance is applied upon the motion of Probation Service during execution of a sentence.
When applying electronic monitoring, the Court takes into account the following factors, regarding a person to whom the measure is being considered: personal characteristics, age, health, occupation, the presence of a permanent residence, marital status, nature and the gravity of the crime.
Who directs the monitoring?
Due to differences in legal systems different countries have different bodies responsible for the administration of electronic monitoring; these are probation agencies, prison staff, police or other competent state authorities, etc. In some countries, the monitoring is carried out by private organizations, based on service contracts signed with the state.
The administration of the electronic surveillance and monitoring in Armenia is the responsibility of the newly established Probation Service. According to the responsible persons of the sphere, the electronic devices will be acquired until the end of this year; afterwards they will have the possibility to implement Court orders prescribing electronic monitoring.
Financing the Electronic Surveillance Services
In some countries, the costs related to the use of electronic monitoring are on the state, in others, the suspect, the accused or the convict bear the financial burden to pay for the service (fully or partially).
According to the Armenian legislation the electronic surveillance services can be provided at the expense of either a state budget or the beneficiary of the probation. This issue will be considered by the court, which has to take into account the financial situation of a person.
The law, however, underlines that the financial problem may not be a reason for rejecting the implementation of electronic surveillance.
The procedure of financing and implementation of the methods of electronic surveillance should be established by the Government of RA.
According to Suren Krmoyan, the Deputy Minister of Justice, electronic surveillance service will cost approximately 1,000 Armenian drams a day, while it is around 5 Euros in Europe. In comparison, in Armenia the state budget allocates, on average, 5000-6000 drams per day for keeping one person in a penitentiary institution. Besides, instead of declared correctional character, prisons in Armenia have a very negative impact on offenders, which ultimately results in serious challenges for restorative processes and social reintegration.