The statutory provisions on electronic monitoring of dangerous persons (“ankle tag”) are compatible with German Basic Law. This was made clear by the Federal Constitutional Court in its decision of 1 December 2020. This type of monitoring encroaches deeply on the right to informational self-determination and the overall personal rights of the persons concerned. However, since the restrictions serve to protect others, they are both reasonable and justified, the judges ruled.
To reach its decision, the court relied, among other viewpoints, on an opinion by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (former name: Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law), which the court's second senate had commissioned in 2011. The opinion deals with the technical possibilities of electronic tagging of dangerous persons and the state of criminological research in this field, in particular issues of stigmatization and resocialization of ankle tag wearers.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have been analyzing the use of electronic tagging for two decades now. In the past, the Institute has carried out and evaluated pilot projects in the states of Hesse and Baden-Württemberg on behalf of the ministries of justice. In a number of projects, the researchers also investigated the acceptance of the ankle tag and the psycho-social effects it has on its wearers and their relatives.
Electronic monitoring of dangerous offenders was introduced in 2011. It was intended as an instrument to monitor persons convicted of crimes by a final court decision with a negative recidivism prognosis. At the time, a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg meant that persons who were still considered dangerous had to be released from preventive detention. The aim of the ankle tag was to make round-the-clock monitoring by the police superfluous. The electronic ankle tag tracks the whereabouts of the dangerous person by means of a GPS transmitter attached to his or her foot.
The decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court (in German): www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de
- Meuer, K., & Wössner, G. (2020). Does electronic monitoring as a means of release preparation reduce subsequent recidivism? A randomized controlled trial in Germany. European Journal of Criminology, 17(5), 563–584.
- German post on the “Verfassungsblog” (blog on matters constitutional) by Dr. Katharina Meuer: verfassungsblog.de/auf-schritt-und-tritt/
- Wössner, G., & Meuer, K. J. (2019). Implementierung und Folgen elektronischer Überwachung : Ergebnisse eines kriminologischen Experiments zum Einsatz der elektronischen Aufsicht im Vollzug der Freiheitsstrafe in Baden-Württemberg. Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform, 102(3), 202–216.
- Meuer, K. J. (2019). Legalbewährung nach elektronischer Aufsicht im Vollzug der Freiheitsstrafe : Eine experimentelle Rückfallstudie zum baden-württembergischen Modellprojekt (Vol. K 183) Schriftenreihe des Max-Planck-Instituts für ausländisches und internationales Strafrecht : Kriminologische Forschungsberichte. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.