Dutch gov't experiments with giving ankle monitors to psych prisoners on leave

Prisoners serving sentences of institutionalized psychiatric care may soon have to wear an ankle monitor when they are on leave from the psychiatric clinic treating them. Minister Sander Dekker for Legal Protection announced that the government will experiment with this starting in the fall, RTL Nieuws reports.

The electronic monitoring tool is currently only used in the prison system. The ankle monitor keeps track of where the wearer is, recording his or her movements. 

Clinics can register to take part in the experiment. Which patients will wear an ankle monitor on leave will be decided in consultation with the probation service. For example, an ankle monitor may be given to patients who returned late during previous leave periods. 

The Minister denies that this experiment was prompted by recent incidents of psychiatric prisoners not returning from leave. Early this month a man suffering from schizophrenia who was sentenced to institutionalized psychiatric treatment for attacking someone on the street and threatening to blow up a train station, escaped from clinic Fivoor in Den Dolder by not returning from his three hour leave. He was arrested again five days later, but not before the police had to give his mother extra protection as the man tended to take out his aggression on her.

The man escaped from the same clinic that was treating Michael P. when he abducted, raped and killed 25-year-old Anne Faber in 2017. Problems in the treatment of Michael P. prompted the Ministry for Legal Protection to implement stricter rules for psychiatric prisoners. 

Dekker also stressed that risks can never be completely ruled out. "We do not live in a risk free society." But electronic supervision can decrease the risks, he said, according to the broadcaster. "Because then you can follow someone better."

The ankle monitor is not a perfect monitoring system. Last year 103 ankle monitor wearers disappeared from the radar after they cut the device off their leg, according to RTL. In the past there were also technical disruptions resulting in the authorities losing track of ankle monitor wearers. 

The experiment will run for two years. If it is successful, the measure will be implemented permanently.