By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government intends to review the electronic monitoring system for criminals and its management company over an “unacceptable” number of breaches.
While the company has maintained it is effectively monitoring over 300 ankle bracelets, both Keith Bell, Minister of State for National Security, and Prime Minister Perry Christie expressed doubts over whether the contract with ICS Security Concepts will be renewed later this year.
Speculation over the monitoring system’s efficacy heightened following the discovery of a badly decomposed body of a man wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet in bushes off an isolated track road on the north-side of the South Beach canal, Monday.
However, Mr Bell said the government had expressed concerns over “fundamental issues” with the use of electronic monitoring before they took office last year.
“The question one has to ask,” he said, “is the government spending a substantial amount of money for this? We know that in excess of 400 persons are on the system, we know for a fact that as part of the contract even if a person is on the system and rearrested the government is being continuously billed for the bracelet even if they are in the system.
He added: “The fact of the matter is the government has invested in it and the responsibility on (ICS) is to ensure that there are no breaches, either you do it or you can’t. This is not the first, definitely not the second, we’ve had a number of persons who were either found murdered on the ankle bracelet system, or they were targeted, or they actually went out there and committed more crimes.”
The contract with the security firm will expire November 1.
Yesterday, ICS president Stephen Greenslade said his company was actively monitoring 386 offenders efficiently and effectively, and communication with all relevant government agencies remained “strong and positive.”
Mr Greenslade would not comment on how many people were employed at the monitoring centre or how many breaches have occurred since the system was implemented.
Mr Greenslade said: “Our confidence in this programme remains very high and I urge all concerned to support it as it remains a critical component in the overall crime management tools we have at our disposal as a country. If we miss manage the perception then we destroy what we have built before we push it to its full potential.
He added: “ICS will continue to deliver quality service to the Bahamas through the monitoring of offenders and we remain steadfast in our efforts to meet the expectations of our client (The Bahamas Government) and the Bahamian society.”
According to Supt Paul Rolle, the bloodied body of the man believed to be in his thirties, was thought to have been there for “at least a week”.
Yesterday, Mr Bell said it was possible for the monitoring centre to determine whether or not an individual has been stationary for an extended period of time. He added that while there was some degree of merit to the existing system, the government was actively considering other prospects.
“In other countries who started the system,” said Mr Bell, “it really was used for persons who committed soft crimes, petty thefts. We have used the system to allow violent criminals to be released on bail and as a result of that (criminals) are going to find ways and means (to escape)`.
He added: “As a matter of fact you can even google how to release these bracelets. The second problem is the technology that was brought here, there was clear evidence that the bracelet that we use had some fundamental flaws.”
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Mr Greenslade said he would not comment on the discovery on Monday of the dead body as it was under active police investigation.
He added that the programme had matured significantly over the past three years.
“This programme,” he added, “falls under a classified aspect of law enforcement and I am minded not to prejudice it in anyway. I can tell you that upgrades are always being made as technology does not stay the same, it’s an ongoing process to stay at the cutting edge and to keep current and efficient.
When asked yesterday whether or not he felt the system was a “waste of time and money”, Mr Christie said: “I would hope not. It is intended to be effective, there are all sorts of questions that we have to ask.”
He added: “I don’t want to prejudge (the company), the questions that I would have, that the average person would have, must be answered. Those answers will determine whether in fact you’re talking about a new contract.”