Constitutional court on foot shackles: goes clear

The Federal Constitutional Court rejects the constitutional complaint against foot shackles. Two men have complained of stigmatization.

Weighing heavy: GPS transmitter weighing about 700 grams on the ankle Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa

The electronic ankle bracelet for dangerous prisoners does not violate any fundamental rights. The Federal Constitutional Court has now come to this conclusion and rejected two constitutional complaints by those affected.

Since 2011, violent and sex offenders can be monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet after release from prison. A GPS transmitter weighing around 700 grams is attached to the ankle and regularly reports the whereabouts. If the transmitter is removed, the device alerts the "Gemeinsame elektronische uberwachungsstelle der Lander" (GuL) in Weiterstadt, Hesse.

Currently, around 100 released prisoners nationwide are monitored in this way. The control is part of the leadership supervision and lasts a maximum of five years. More than 6,000 alarm messages are received in Weiterstadt every year. In most cases, however, only the transmitter’s battery is empty. In 2.7 percent of the cases, the police had to be alerted.

Two men from Rostock – a murderer and a rapist – had already filed a constitutional complaint against their electronic monitoring in 20. The transmitter on their feet could be seen during sports, in the open-air swimming pool as well as during sex and branded them as felons. This stigmatization also impedes their rehabilitation.

Prevention of serious crimes takes precedence

The limited running time of the transmitter battery – often only twelve hours – hinders the professional restart, according to the plaintiffs. In addition, total state surveillance violates human dignity.

The Second Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court has now – after ten years of consideration – rejected the complaints in their entirety. The transmitter can be easily concealed "by normal clothing". If the persons concerned refrain from having sex because they are ashamed, this is an encroachment on their general freedom of action, but it is justified by the aim of the surveillance – to prevent serious criminal offenses.

Even with only twelve hours of battery life, normal professional activity is possible, the judges said. There is no unconstitutional "all-round surveillance". Although the stay is recorded around the clock, the data is only evaluated "on an ad hoc basis". In any case, no "personality profiles" could be created.

In addition to the supervision of conduct by means of ankle bracelets, which is regulated in the Criminal Code and only applies to released offenders, there has long been a project in Hesse to prevent imprisonment, in which ankle bracelets are also used. This currently affects around forty people, but only their presence in their homes or workplaces is monitored.

In 2017, the GPS ankle bracelet, which enables full movement images, was also approved for monitoring terrorist threats. However, the regulations in the federal and state police laws are hardly used.

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