Toronto Star

Dec. 13, 01:00 EDT

Abusers face electronic monitors

`Bracelets' would keep dangerous spouses away

Peter Small
Staff Reporter
Toronto Star

The Ontario government will soon seek proposals from private companies to supply electronic monitoring devices used to keep abusive spouses away from their victims, Corrections Minister Rob Sampson says.

"This technology has a really broad range of applications," Sampson said yesterday, and it could be a useful tool for probation and parole officers and perhaps will keep victims better informed.

Sampson was interviewed after a corrections official told the inquest into the murder-suicide of Ralph and Gillian Hadley that the ministry is looking at expanding its use of electronic monitoring devices. It is also examining global positioning systems, voice verification tools and pager technology.

Since 1996, the Ministry of Correctional Services has been using an electronic ankle "bracelet" that monitors selected inmates out on temporary absence passes by sending radio signals to a receiver.

When the inmate goes outside a set radius from his or her home, the box alerts a central computer in North Bay, the inquest was told.

But the ministry does not yet use technology to create exclusion zones such as around an abused spouse's home to prevent an offender from entering without triggering an alarm.

Sampson said the ministry wants to use such a device, and possibly others, and intends "very shortly" to approach the private sector with its specifications.

The technology is being used elsewhere, primarily Florida, and Sampson said the ministry has been assured by suppliers that it can be adjusted for Canada's cold and variable climate.

At the inquest, Adam Borgida, a regional director for community and young offenders services for the ministry, said the electronic device the ministry uses keeps tabs on up to 140 of its 2,500 inmates.

But the worst offenders, including those who have been convicted of domestic violence, aren't eligible for the voluntary electronic monitoring program, Borgida testified.

Those ineligible include people who have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, arson, drug trafficking, domestic violence, plus various sexual assault offences that occurred in the last five years.

In June, 2000, when Ralph Hadley broke into the former matrimonial home in Pickering to murder his estranged wife and then kill himself, he was out on bail on charges of criminally harassing her.

Among his release conditions, he could not enter Pickering except to cross it by Highway 401 or GO Train or to see his lawyer.

Borgida agreed with a suggestion by Walter Myrka, a lawyer for the attorney-general's ministry, that although it is a useful tool it cannot guarantee safety or control behaviour.

The inquest continues today.

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