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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Incorporating electronically monitored house arrest into British Columbia corrections : |b the processes of power, knowledge, and regulation in the debut of a punishment technique Mainprize, Stephen


Since 1984 in the U.S., electronic monitoring has been gradually incorporated into corrections as a means of verifying offenders' curfew compliance in programs of house arrest or home confinement. Programs of electronically monitored house arrest combine practices of community supervision found in probation, with practices of surveillance and policing found in prisons. Their combination produces a hybrid carceral form. The species of 'intermediate punishment' that is created expands the possibilities of criminal sentencing and classification. These programs have been heralded as humane and cost efficient in managing mainly 'low risk' offenders, and as a potentially effective method of dealing with prison crowding. The recent inauguration of electronic monitoring in a program of house arrest in the province of British Columbia is the first deployment of this new type of penal form in Canada. The present research investigation focuses on this program run by the B.C. Corrections Branch. Prior to a consideration of this program as the site for the present research, a necessary task in the first part of this dissertation is to review the recent literature describing programs of electronically monitored house arrest. This review describes recent electronic monitoring programs in U.S. criminal justice and correctional spheres where virtually all developments have occurred to date. After this literature review, the British Columbia research site is described and a summary of the findings of an exploratory research investigation describing the effects of this sanction on offenders is given. Despite methodological limitations of the research sample some important insights are provided about how this sanction works to control, punish, and discipline offenders. The main research question considered in this empirical investigation - how does this sanction affect offenders and their consociates? - is addressed through subjective reports provided by open-ended interviewing of a cohort of 60 offenders placed on electronically monitored house arrest in the B.C. EMS Pilot Project program. The second part of the dissertation establishes a social analytic basis, drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, for critically evaluating the local use of this new correctional option. Part II of the dissertation evaluates the disciplinary and organizational or systemic effects of the deployment of this sanction within the correctional enterprise. A framework for assessing the possibility of achieving the four penal aims of punishment, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation is employed in a re-assessment of the sanction's normalizing effects and disciplinary potential. The picture provided of the achievement of these penal objectives is mixed and indicates that more research is required. Finally, and of more overarching significance, various data sources relating to the local development and implementation of this program in B.C. are examined in order to evaluate the applicability of the hypothesis that penal reforms expand the apparatus of deviancy control, a pattern found among many recent studies of 'community-based alternatives to incarceration'. The discursive rationality accompanying the introduction of such programs suggests that costs for social control will be decreased and implies that correctional staffing can be reduced through greater efficiency. Contrary to these claims, evidence from the EMS program points to systemic expansion rather than contraction, a trend sufficiently visible to warrant further study and confirmation. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the larger significances entailed in the adoption of the new information technology, of which electronic monitoring is one pertinent example.

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