The Many Faces of Surveillance: Ethical Considerations That Encompass the Use of Electronic Monitoring in Criminal and Clinical Populations

  • Harriet Hunt-GrubbeEmail author


This chapter discusses ethical issues arising from the use of electronic monitoring (‘tagging’) in criminal and forensic psychiatry populations.

It provides a concise background to the use of electronic monitoring—a form of surveillance used to monitor a person that is considered at increased risk of reoffending. It describes how the technology used has evolved over time, the newer technology being supposedly more reliable.

Challenges in the application of electronic monitoring are covered, as is a detailed discussion about whether electronic tagging provides a cost-effective alternative to custody for some offenders and the opportunity for early release from custody or early discharge for forensic psychiatry populations, with all the benefits that this entails (family life, employment, reintegration to community, reduction of crime).

In this chapter, more importantly, issues around consent, coercion, rationale, stigmatisation and the impact on trust and therapeutic relationships are discussed. Ethical considerations that focus on the clinical decision to use electronic monitoring in forensic psychiatry populations (considering duty of care and the principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, respect for privacy and respect of justice) are presented alongside societal and cost considerations.


Electronic monitoring Tagging Technocorrections Surveillance in forensic psychiatry Tagging in forensic psychiatry GPS technology in forensic psychiatry Assistive technology in forensic psychiatry 


  1. Beattie JM (1986) Crime and the Courts in England 1660–1800. Oxford University Press, Oxford. p470Google Scholar
  2. Beauchamp TL, Childress JF (2001) Principles of biomedical ethics, 5th edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford. p373Google Scholar
  3. Bishop L (2010) The challenges of GPS and sex offender management. Fed Probat 74(2).
  4. Black M, Smith RG (2003) Electronic monitoring in the criminal justice system. Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice (PDF). 254. Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, pp 241–260Google Scholar
  5. Burrell WD, Gable RS (2008) From B. F. Skinner to Spiderman to Martha Stewart: the past, present and future of electronic monitoring of offenders. J Offender Rehabil 46(3–4):101–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gable RS (2007) Electronic monitoring of offenders: can a wayward technology be redeemed? In: de Kort Y, IJsselsteijn W, Midden C, Eggen B, Fogg BJ (eds) Persuasive technology, Lecture notes in computer science, vol 4744. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gable RK, Gable RS (2005) Electronic monitoring: positive intervention strategies. Fed Probat 69(1):21–25. Scholar
  8. Geohegan R (2012) Future of corrections: exploring the use of electronic monitoring. Policy Exchange, London, UK. Scholar
  9. Godwin B (2012) The ethical evaluation of assistive technology for practitioners: a checklist arising from a participatory study with people with dementia, family and professionals. J Assist Technol 6(2):123–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hearn D (2015) Other GPS uses: forensic mental health. Probation Quarterly, Issue 5, Electronic Monitoring.
  11. Hucklesby A, Holdsworth E (2016) Electronic monitoring in England and Wales. Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds. Scholar
  12. London Assembly (2017) GPS tags to help drive down reoffending in the capital.
  13. Mason MK (2018) Foucault and his Panopticon. Accessed 14 Mar 2018
  14. Michael K, McNamee A, Michael MG (2006) The emerging ethics of humancentric GPS tracking and monitoring. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Mobile Business, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  15. Morse A (2017) The new generation electronic monitoring programme. NAO report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. National Audit Office, Ministry of Justice, London. Scholar
  16. Murphy P, Potter L, Tully J, Hearn D, Fahy T, McCrone P (2017) A cost comparison study of using global system technology (electronic monitoring) in a medium secure forensic psychiatric service. J Forensic Psychiatry Psychol 28(1):57–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nellis M (2006) The ethics and practice of electronically monitoring offenders. Seminar for the Glasgow School of Social Work.
  18. Nellis M (2015) Standards and ethics in electronic monitoring. Handbook for professionals responsible for the establishment and the use of Electronic Monitoring. Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France. Scholar
  19. Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (2014) Evidence on the effectiveness of GPS monitoring for mental health forensic rehabilitation patients. Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, Halifax. Scholar
  20. Paterson C (2012) Commercial crime control and the development of electronically monitored punishment: a global perspective. In: Nellis M, Beyens K, Kaminski D (eds) Electronically monitored punishment: international and critical perspective. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Renzema M, Mayo-Wilson E (2005) Can electronic monitoring reduce crime for moderate to high-risk offenders? J Exp Criminol 1(2):215–237. Scholar
  22. Tully J, Hearn D, Fahy T (2014) Can electronic monitoring (GPS ‘tracking’) enhance risk management in psychiatry? Br J Psychiatry 205(2):83–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Watson E, Madhani P, Mysorekar S, Sollitt K (2014) Electronic monitoring of forensic patients. Br J Psychiatry 205(6):500–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Wey S (2007) The ethical use of assistive technology.
  25. Yang YT, Kels CG (2017) Ethical considerations in electronic monitoring of the cognitively impaired. J Am Board Fam Med 30:258–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health TrustLondonEngland

Personalised recommendations