Prison-leavers forced to wear tag that monitors alcohol levels

Under new rules that come into force today, some prison-leavers will face alcohol bans and having their drinking electronically monitored.

The government has announced that over the next three years up to 12,000 ex-offenders will be forced to wear a sobriety tag which monitors alcohol levels in sweat if their probation officer thinks they could reoffend when drinking.

The technology has been piloted in Wales since 2020.

During this time, more than 3,600 offenders have worn a sobriety tag.

The government said that 900 people were wearing the tag at the end of March, with this number expected to double by 2024.

It claims that alcohol plays a part in 39 per cent of violent crime, while 20 per cent of offenders accessing probation services have drinking issues.

“We’ve seen that alcohol tags work - with tagged offenders complying 97 percent of the time,” said deputy prime minister Dominic Raab. “That’s why we’re going to double the number wearing them from 900 to 1,900 over the next two years, focusing on those leaving prison on licence.”

But some organisations, including Alcohol Change UK, have expressed concerns about the move.

The charity's chief executive, Dr Richard Piper, said that sobriety tagging could be "very dangerous" for those who are physically dependent on alcohol. He also said that the scheme is "not enough on its own" to reduce alcohol-related crime.

"If we want to reduce reoffending rates and see a longer-term shift to healthier drinking, offenders need proper support to address their drinking and make lasting change - whether that’s to stop drinking or to moderate," said Piper. "Innovative digital support, such as the free drink control app Try Dry, can help with this, as well as access to high-quality alcohol treatment.

"It’s also important that sobriety tags are supported by a comprehensive package of policies such as a properly funded alcohol treatment system, better alcohol labelling and improved controls on alcohol marketing, to help us address problem drinking as a whole, including preventing it before it starts."

Last year the government also launched GPS tags to track “robbers, thieves and burglars”.

It plans to spend an extra £183 million in electric monitoring by 2025 to nearly double the number of people tagged at any one time to around 25,000.

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