The foot shackles would be fitted to conditionally discharged offenders during the remainder of the time they would otherwise have been kept in jail, Miklautsch told Austria's ORF radio on Monday.

 

"I am expecting quite certainly that we can use them in the early summer," she said.

 

Miklautsch said the new technology monitoring offenders' movements would make their reintegration into society easier.

 

It would also take the pressure off Austria's overflowing prisons, where the present total of 9,060 inmates is far more than the official maximum capacity of about 8,000.

 

"I am expecting quite certainly that we can use them in the early summer"

 Karin Miklautsch,
Austrian Minister of Justice

The right-wing Freedom Party (FP) minister said about 1,350 people presently in prison, would be eligible for the electronic tagging programme.

 

Her announcement was welcomed by the other parties.

But an official in the Justice Ministry, Michael Neider, said that people convicted of serious crimes would not qualify for electronic monitoring.

DNA testing

Only those sentenced to less than two years' jail would possibly be released earlier and fitted with a foot shackle.

 

In another interview, in the newspaper Kurier, Miklautsch said mass-DNA testing in cases of serious crime would be possible next year. For instance, if a murder happened in a small village, all the inhabitants could be tested.

 

Under present Austrian law, DNA testing is already allowed in cases of serious crime such as murder or rape, but evidence based on it is not always permissible in court.

Miklautsch said this too would change as early as 2006.

 

The opposition Social Democrats (SP) supported her, saying DNA tests were welcome if they could help to catch people guilty of serious crimes.