Up to 1,500 offenders living in the community will be tracked by satellite under a trial of new tagging technology.
The Ministry of Justice is to launch a pilot programme in Cambridgeshire to test the use of GPS monitoring devices.
Plans for the initiative were first announced earlier this year as part of the Government’s prisons shake-up.
Possible tagging subjects include those on suspended sentence orders, offenders freed early from prison, and those being considered for re-release following a recall.
A document published by the Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service said: “The pilots will seek to test how the use of a GPS tag might impact upon the behaviour of offenders and decision makers in the Criminal Justice System and how it might help to improve rehabilitative outcomes.
“There is a real potential for electronic monitoring to act as a tool that could help stabilise demand on the prison estate.
“It will be critical for decision makers that we demonstrate that GPS tagging is a viable and useful alternative to custody.
“The pilot will help and inform the understanding of the practical implications and impact of GPS monitoring.”
Tags are worn around the ankle and are used to monitor the location of the subject via a satellite signal.
They are designed to be difficult to remove, and any attempt to take them off will generate an alert to a monitoring centre.
Those who are tagged will be required to charge the device for a total of around two hours on a daily basis.
“The cost of charging the GPS tag is approximately 3p per day and the subject can claim this back through the monitoring centre if they wish to,” the paper said.
Unsuitable activities while wearing a tag include water sports, surfing and diving, as well as contact sports such as rugby and football, according to the document.
It said GPS monitoring can provide information which helps authorities establish whether the individual is complying with conditions or requirements relating to their whereabouts. Examples include zones that a subject is not permitted to enter or leave, as well as people who they are not allowed to associate with.
Officials have budgeted for 1,500 tags across both pilot areas, although this figure may not be reached and a “gradual build-up” is expected.
The pilot will run for a year covering Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Leicester, the West Midlands, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.