Prague, Sept 26 (CTK) – The Czech Probation and Mediation Service signed a contract on the supply of electronic tags for prisoners with the SuperCom firm on Tuesday, Justice Minister Robert Pelikan has told a press conference, adding that the tags operation will annually cost the state 15.5 million crowns.

The electronic tags will enable the monitoring of prisoners under house arrest and thereby lower the number of inmates in the crowded Czech prisons.

The system is to become fully functioning next spring, when the first convicts will be equipped with the tags, Pelikan said.

“Now it is only up to the willingness of judges to use this instrument,” he said.

SuperCom won a tender for electronic monitors in February, but the supply was suspended since the unsuccessful bidders challenged the tender with the anti-trust office UOHS.

The state will pay a total of 93 million crowns for the electronic tags supply and for the relevant monitoring centre’s operation in the next six years.

The costs will be 120 crowns per person under house arrest a day, with the convict or person in custody covering 50 crowns.

Compared with this, an inmate’s stay in prison costs the state 1,100 crowns a day.

“It has taken long eight years… This is the sixth tender in a row, which finally became a success,” Pelikan said in an allusion to the ministry’s long-lasting efforts to acquire e-tags.

The tags will be used to monitor the perpetrators of less serious criminal offences sentenced to house arrest and replace the current random checks carried out by probation officers.

In some cases, the devices could also monitor the accused who would be otherwise remanded in custody.

Andrea Matouskova, head of the Probation and Mediation Service, said the reliability of the electronic checks will enable the officers to devote more time to their direct work with offenders.

In the first phase of the project, SuperCom will supply 280 e-tags, operate the monitoring centre and train the staff.

In the following six years, up to 2,000 e-tags will be available.

The probation service says one of the main advantages of e-tags is that the convict or suspect can keep in contact with their family and go to work.

The ministry expects the introduction of e-tags to raise the number of house arrest verdicts by courts, which have imposed house arrest only rarely so far.

According to the probation service’s statistics, the highest number of house arrest verdicts, 514, was imposed in 2012. Their number has been declining since, reaching the lower record, 169, last year.