Electronic Monitoring of Prisoners in Baden-Württemberg/Germany

From October 2010 until March 2012 the use of electronic monitoring within the prison regime of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg was implemented. A research project has been set-up at the Max Planck Institute to evaluate this pilot project, with two particular foci: First we conducted an evaluation study during the implementation phase. In a follow-up study, we analyze the recidivism rates of the monitored prisoners in comparison with two control groups and in consideration of associated factors.

Project category: Research project
Organisational status: Departmental project
Project time frame: Beginning of project: 2010
End of project: 07/2017
Status of Project: completed
Project language(s): German

Head(s) of project

Contributors / Researchers

  • Katharina Meuer (until January 2018)
  • Andreas Schwedler (until March 2014)

Objects of the research:

In July 2009, Baden-Württemberg passed the “Act on electronic monitoring during the enforcement of imprisonment” to evaluate electronic monitoring in three instances:

  • To facilitate home detention instead of imprisonment for failure to pay a fine.
  • To prepare prisoners for release, with monitored home detention being granted for a period of up to 6 months prior to release.
  • To allow for supervised work release for up to 6 months prior to release.

Key requirements for participation in the trial include:

  • A suitable apartment or other permanent residence.
  • The consent of all co-habiting adults.
  • A suitable place of employment or an “appropriate alternative to work” (such as a traineeship) totalling at least 20 hours per week.
  • The positive evaluation that the individual in question can meet the burdens of electronic monitoring and will not use the provision to commit further offenses.

A personalized program is drawn-up for each individual to establish where they have to be at any given time. A deviation from this program is automatically reported by a GPS ankle bracelet to the appropriate authorities. In the case of home detention, guidance and support from social workers is seen as an integral component of the overall concept. Each individual is allocated a social worker who they can contact if any problems arise. Moreover, the personalized program can be changed and/or adapted at regular meetings with the designated social worker.

Accompanying research:

Research questions:

The project will seek to answer the following questions:

  • How is electronic monitoring implemented (organizational framework, target group, technical equipment, supervision, costs)?
  • How do those monitored, as well as their family members, experience electronic monitoring?
  • How does electronic monitoring affect psychological constructs, such as self-concept, locus of control, or social competency?
  • How does electronic monitoring affect release preparation?
  • How does electronic monitoring affect recidivism after release?


To investigate these questions, we collected data from 150 subjects. Individuals who were in prison in Baden-Württemberg at the time of investigation and wished to participate in the pilot project were to be randomly placed in an experimental group (where suitable subjects could participate in the electronic monitoring trial) or a control group (where normal imprisonment practices were applied). This randomization allowed for a better comparison of the two groups from the outset, including all known and unknown properties. Differences that were established later on between the two groups should therefore be entirely associated with the methods of intervention. The project design was longitudinal, as data were collected from the subjects at three different points in time (at the beginning of electronic monitoring or entering the control group, upon release from prison, and six months after release). This will allow for the analysis of individual changes and their link with the researched variables.


The project obtains data from the following sources:

  • Psychometric questionnaires.
  • Telephone and personal interviews.
  • Documentation of support provided by social workers.
  • Prisoners’ files.
  • Expert survey (interviews or questionnaire).
  • Federal Registry excerpts on renewed delinquency, and
  • prisoners’ files of an additional “twin” control group.

Analysis of post-prison recidivism:

The first phase of the pilot project to assess the implementation and measure the psychological and psycho­social effects of electronic monitoring was completed in February 2014 (see Schwedler, Andreas/Wößner, Gunda: Elektronische Aufsicht bei vollzugsöffnenden Maßnahmen: Implementation, Akzeptanz und psychosoziale Effekte des baden-württembergischen Modellprojekts).

The second phase of the project examines the role electronic monitoring can have during probation and on recidivism. To investigate this, data was requested and evaluated from 137 Federal Registry excerpts of former prisoners.

To minimize the impact of selection effects, a second "twin" control group has been created, so that the recidivism findings of the experimental group can be compared with both the original control group (randomly generated) and the twin control group.

Publications (selection)

  • Meuer, Katharina / Wößner, Gunda: Kriminalprävention durch elektronische Aufsicht?. In: Walsh, M., Pniewski, B., Kober, M., Amborst, A. (eds.), Evidenzorientierte Kriminalprävention in Deutschland. Ein Leitfaden für Politik und Praxis. Springer, Berlin 2018, p. 617-640.

  • Schwedler, Andreas / Woessner, Gunda: Identifying the rehabilitative potential of electronically monitored release preparation: A randomized controlled study in Germany. In: International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 2017, 61(8), 839-856.

  • Schwedler, Andreas / Wößner, Gunda: Elektronische Aufsicht bei vollzugsöffnenden Maßnahmen: Implementation, Akzeptanz und psychosoziale Effekte des baden-württembergischen Modellprojekts. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2015, 126 p.

  • Wößner, Gunda / Schwedler, Andreas: Aufstieg und Fall der elektronischen Fußfessel in Baden-Württemberg: Analysen zum Modellversuch der elektronischen Aufsicht im Vollzug der Freiheitsstrafe. In: Neue Kriminalpolitik, 1/2014, p. 60-77.

  • Wößner, Gunda / Schwedler, Andreas: Elektronische Aufsicht im Vollzug der Freiheitsstrafe in Baden-Württemberg – Ergebnisse der wissenschaftlichen Begleitforschung. In: Bewährungshilfe, 2/2013, p. 130-145.

  • Lectures:

  • What do we gain from early release preparation under electronic monitoring?

    Gunda Wößner and Andreas Schwedler [Chicago 2012]

  • Last update: 16 March 2018
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