Nine years after the Administration of Justice (Electronic Monitoring) Act was assented to, the electronic monitoring system has been brought online.
Its aim is to monitor the movements of some categories of criminals.
Speaking at the launch of the system at Tower C of the International Waterfront, Port of Spain, on Friday, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said the system used state-of-the-art technology to track the movement of offenders.
He was optimistic it would strengthen the capabilities of law enforcement while allowing the wearer a chance to support him- or herself and ease the strain on the prison system.
The system. which features ankle bracelets with GPS tracking devices. will be available as an alternative to incarceration for criminals and as a bail requirement for certain charges including domestic violence and sexual offences. People charged with treason or murder will not be eligible for electronic monitoring.
Citing the murders of Ashanti Riley and Andrea Bharatt, Hinds said the rollout of the system was testament to the government's commitment to fighting gender-based violence.
"This measure in electronic monitoring can prevent some of those circumstances," Hinds said. "That is our hope, it is our prayer.
"It is used to protect the victims and manage the perpetrators outside of the system of incarceration...rather than have them incarcerated, where they cannot work and they cannot earn money to take care of the children and their other responsibilities.
"Electronic monitoring allows the State an opportunity to manage that...to monitor them without incarceration."
Hinds said the supply, delivery, installation and maintenance of the system for three years cost approximately $10.3 million with an annual staffing cost of $1.7 million. He was convinced it was worth the cost, given the benefits to the criminal justice system.
Deputy director of the Electronic Monitoring Unit (EMU) Lawrence Hinds (no relation) said criminals would have the option of electronic monitoring in place of incarceration once they met certain criteria in the nature of their charge and living arrangements.
He also said a means test would be done for the user, as a fee of up to $11 a day is applied.
Asked whether the devices would be effective if the wearer lives in an area with low signal strength, deputy director Hinds said one of the prerequisites for being monitored was to live in an area where there is some moderate signal strength.
He also explained, "If someone is already on the system and they go to an area where there is no or weak GPS, remember, we are already monitoring you. We know where the weak spots are. So we can advise you to move away. If for some reason you continue to move towards that area, the GPS can continue to capture the data in the area for up to 30 days if so needed, and then that information can be 'dumped' when you get near to a cell tower.
"You have unlimited freedom once you are using the bracelet, and if you are moving, you need to notify us what is your pattern of movement, so we can advise what is the best possible means to get to your location."
He said as of Friday there were three people in the system who were under a 24-hour home curfew and were not allowed to leave their home at any point. But he said there could bedifferent arrangements where a person can be allowed to go to work, depending on the circumstances.
Lawrence Hinds also said prison officers were trained in fitting and removing the devices, and police were also trained through workshops.
Anyone found tampering with or removing one of the devices is liable to a fine of $100,000 or imprisonment for two years.