An official demonstrates the wearing of an electronic monitoring ankle-bracelet in Bern November 26, 2009.
An official demonstrates the wearing of an electronic monitoring ankle-bracelet in Bern November 26, 2009. Reuters/Michael Buholzer

When Telstra’s networks suffered an outage earlier this month, the telco inconvenienced not only its subscribers, but also correctional facilities in two Australian states. Prison authorities said the outages caused them to lose track of the people wearing electronic ankle bracelets.

The Northern Territory Correctional Services lost track of about 85 electronic monitoring devices for a couple of days when Telstra’s networks suffered outage from the early hours of May 4. The electronic monitoring devices are used on people on home detention, on curfew, or those restricted from certain areas.

“A significant number of NT Correctional Services electronic monitoring devices were affected by an intermittent outage issue in the Telstra Mobile G4S network communications service that began at 1:10 a.m. on Friday,” a spokesperson was quoted by as saying. “At 8:10 a.m., Friday, 4 May 2018, there were approximately 85 electronic monitoring devices identified as having unresolved communication issues, and by 11:30 a.m., 23 had been resolved. By Saturday 5 May, only seven remained unresolved.”

The same was experienced by Queensland. Queensland Corrective Services said the May 4 outage affected 299 devices worn by offenders, including high-risk sex offenders. QCS was left with no choice but to use other contingency plans.

“QCS immediately put contingency processes into place to ensure public safety, and escalated the incident to the service provider for priority resolution,” a spokeswoman told the ABC. “Offenders have no way of knowing when the devices are not operational.”

The recent outage on May 21 also affected about 750 individuals wearing electronic tracking in South Australia for a couple of hours. For the Monday outage, Telstra blamed a software fault resulting in multiple element failures across the network.

“The network is designed to switch onto standby hardware, which it did. Following the failover, however, a further fault caused an interruption which impacted 4G connections,” a spokesperson said. “There is redundancy built into these systems, but this did not operate as intended.”

It is still investigating why the software failed in the first place.