Increasing numbers of incarcerations have made security experts look for more efficient ways to address tracking and security issues of jails. Jails and prisons are no ordinary institutions, their needs of safety; security and surveillance are different and complex. They need to take care of external as well as internal threats to security. Jails and prisons play an important role in keeping law abiding free society safe by carrying out responsibility of keeping offender in a perimeter, where they can no longer commit crimes against citizens. NIJ (National Institute of Justice) implemented a correctional technology program that stresses the need of jails and prisons.
Identification and tracking of inmates is one of the major challenges in a correctional facility, specially when they have to move from one place to another within the facility. Prison officers have to be vigilant all the time for the identification of inmates during the movement. An inmate passing through a security post should reach another in time. Transfer delays may cause a problem, inmates may even engage in illegal activities on their way.
If we go by number of people behind bars, the U.S. seem to be contributing the most in rise of crime rate among all developed countries. According to a survey conducted in 2012 by Vera Institute of Justice, which is an independent non-profit national research and policy organization in the United States, the total per inmate cost averaged $31,286 and ranged from $14,603 in Kentucky to $60,076 in New York. According to this study, not only the number of incarcerated citizens, but also the cost per inmate has quadrupled in last two decades.
With the highest number of prison population in the world, United States prisons are not only overly populated, but the numbers are even growing. Rise in crime and number of convicts have burdened corrections officers and prison staff with added responsibilities. Cost of keeping an inmate imprisoned is much higher than the cost of education for an elementary / secondary school student, near tripling in states like New York. It’s not just rise in crime, strict laws also a reason that so many people are serving a prison sentence or in under-trial custody. Implementation and enforcement of a new law brings more and more people into its boundaries.
Tracking of visitors is another major challenge in a jail. Visitors may not only pose security threats but also put additional burden on prison staff members. Visitors can supply contrabands like weapons, mobile phones, drugs to inmates, which can lead to illegal activities and disorder within the prison.
Biometric is the method of statistical measurement of human physiological and behavioral characteristics, that can be used to uniquely identity a person with the use of biometric applications like fingerprint recognition, iris pattern recognition, DNA polymorphism analysis, etc. Biometrics traits are categorized in physiological and behavioral, where physiological biometrics include fingerprints, iris pattern, retina pattern, face geometry, palm vein pattern, DNA polymorphism, etc.; voice, typing rhythm and gait comes under behavioral characteristics category.
Traditional system of identification and authentication include either possession based or knowledge based methods. A person possessing an ID cards, driving licence or a passport can use them to prove his/her identity. This method poses risk of duplication, stealing or loss of the identity document. Knowledge based identification system includes passwords, PINs, codes, etc. This method also suffers from inadequacies like forgetting or sharing passwords. Biometrics, however, has ability to address these shortcomings and can work as an identification system that cannot be forgotten, stolen, shared or duplicated.
Biometric characteristics, associated with a person’s identity data like name, date of birth, age, address, phone number, etc. can serve as an identification or authentication method. Once this association is established, biometrics can be used for a life-long identification of a person as these unique characteristics don’t alter with age. Biometric identification method is securer, faster, and more reliable than knowledge and possession based identification methods.
All biometric identification methods work on the basic principle of matching an existing template of biometric pattern data to a new sample, to either verify a person what he or she claims to be or to know who the person is.
Fingerprint biometric is considered to be the cheapest, most used and easiest to implement method of identification. Establishing a person’s identity is also easier through fingerprint scan in comparison with other methods. In this method of identification, a person’s finger (one or more) is scanned and unique points are identified. This scanned data is taken through the biometric system, which contains pre-defined standard algorithms to generate unique pattern data. After generating pattern data, image of scanned finger is deleted and pattern data is stored in the database. When the person needs to be identified again, fingerprints are again re-scanned and system tries to match the scan with what is already stored. If it matches, person gets identified. Time taken in identification of a person through fingerprint biometric system is less than one second in an ideal situation.
Facial recognition system can identify people by processing their digital images if their facial recognition identity has been pre-established. The system takes advantage of digital images or still frames from a video source, which are taken through the facial recognition algorithm. This algorithm extracts data out of facial characteristics like position and shape of eyes, nose, cheekbones and jaw. It can also measure distance between these characteristics and mapped data is stored in a database. This system can be useful in identifying people in crowd like airport terminals, railway stations, etc. Facial recognition system can capture multiple images in a second, compare them and produced results.
Iris recognition is another biometric identification method which leverages uniqueness of iris patterns in a human eye. These unique patterns are mathematically mapped and stored by iris recognition system and can be used to establish identity of a person. Iris is the colored part forming a ring around the central circular part of the eye. Iris is considered to be the ideal part of human body for biometric identification because iris, being an internal organ, is protected from damages, unlike fingerprints, which can wear in certain cases. Iris stays protected behind transparent cornea and is easily visible by a distance. Iris recognition system captures an image or a short video of the eye and runs it through the iris recognition algorithm, resulting unique pattern data is stored in database and can be associated with identity data of a person.
Finger vein recognition
This method of biometric identification recognizes pattern formed by veins in a human finger, beneath the surface of skin. Pattern of finger vein is captured by a special setup that makes use of near-infrared LED light and a monochrome CCD (charge-coupled-device) camera. Near infrared LED light is absorbed by blood hemoglobin and makes finger veins appear as pattern of dark lines. The camera captures the image and Vein ID system extracts finger vein pattern. This pattern is mathematically mapped in the system and can be used to establish a person’s identity; same procedure is repeated to verify the identity. Vein ID technology was developed and patented by Hitachi.
Palm vein recognition
Palm vein recognition uses same method of capturing vein patterns as finger vein recognition method. A near-infrared LED light and a monochrome CCD (charge-coupled-device) camera setup captures the vein pattern beneath the surface of palm skin. This pattern is extracted and mapped by the recognition system and can be used for establishing identity of a person. The same process is repeated for verifying the identity. Vein pattern recognition systems are difficult to forge because veins are positioned inside the body and the system requires blood flow in veins to capture the image.
Voice biometrics is the method of identifying a speaker with sampling and matching his or her voice patterns. Voice, being a unique behavioral characteristic, can also be used for setting up a person’s identity. Sampling voice is easy and usually done with high quality recorders. This voice sample is taken through voice recognition algorithm to map the pattern. Once the pattern is mapped, it can be associated with identity of a person. Voice biometrics technology is commonly used in phone banking for customer verification and criminal investigations.
Every person has different geometry of hand and this fact can be used for identifying a person on the basis of measurement of his or her hand. Hand geometry for identification has been used for applications like attendance, access control, etc. A hand geometry reader is used for the measurement of hand from various dimensions and this data is stored for identifying a person. Hand geometry biometric, however, is not considered as secure as other high precision biometric identification methods like fingerprint recognition or iris pattern recognition.
Despite the 99.9% similarity in human DNA sequence among all human beings, .1% difference makes it enough to identify an individual by his or her DNA profiling. DNA biometrics significantly differ from other standard biometrics, which are based on impression, image or recording of physiological or behavioral characteristics. Identification by DNA profiling requires a tangible physical sample. The process is not as instant as other biometric methods, but it produces highly reliable results, and there is no possibility of false positives. Sample for DNA profiling can be collected from non-invasive or invasive methods, for example: buccal swab (collection of cells from the inside of cheek), blood, saliva, semen or vaginal lubrication. The samples are taken through one of the different DNA analysis methods and DNA profile is produced. These results are matched with other samples to find a match.
Behavior of inmates can be efficiently managed if their basic needs are addressed on time. When basic needs of inmates are not entertained by the prison personnel, they choose to take actions that can cause a disruption, which can be severe in some cases. Managing this disorder will later take more efforts than it could have taken in serving the need of the inmates. Identifying cause of disruptions and managing them before they advance, can be achieved by managing inmate behavior.
In a free society, people have options to serve their needs on their own, but even in free society, if someone is made severely deprived of his basic needs, he will starts to misbehave and breaking the rules eventually. In prison’s confined conditions, inmates are entirely dependent on corrections officers even for their basic human needs. Deprivation of basic needs becomes a motivator for inmates to take unfavorable actions. Inmate behavior leading to disorder or violence not only affects the inmates themselves, it also becomes an unpleasant experience for prison staff members, posing jail as a traumatic workplace.
How biometrics can reform prison security and daily operations
There are various fronts where use of biometric technology can make a difference in prison security and daily operations. Inmate and visitor management, inmate record management, property management, movements and transfers of inmates, and personnel management are some of the areas where use of biometrics with prison management system can dramatically improve efficiency and accelerate processes.
Booking and release
Booking of inmates follows a standard procedure and their records are created during the process including formalities like taking mugshots, taking personal property into custody, health screening, etc. Booking time can be an opportunity to record biometrics of inmates in the prison management system. As long as the inmate serves the prison time, this one time process can be advantageous in various operations until the inmate’s release. Fingerprints are recorded during booking for local and federal records as a part of standard procedures, registering them on jail management software as well will address several challenges during inmate’s prison time. Release process of inmates includes a lot of paperwork and identity confirmation of the offender. These formalities can be completed in comparatively much shorter time with the help of biometrics.
Movements and transfers
Movement and transfers of inmates offers many challenges like security, maintaining order and tracking, especially when they move in large group. Prison personnel have to put a lot of attention and manual efforts to keep things in control like visual identification of inmates, status updates on radio, etc. An inmate on the way may stop just to chat or engage in an illegal activity. With the help of biometrics, movement and transfer process can be completed in much securer way. Inmates leaving one place and reaching another can be asked to scan their fingerprints at both the ends or multiple locations in between, this will ensure that all inmates left one place have reached another and help isolate their location if an inmate hasn’t.
Conducting routine counts of inmates is a necessary requirement in most prisons. This count may be conducted multiple times a day to ensure that inmates are alive and doing well. Performing counts multiple times a day becomes a tedious process when performed manually. This process can be easily automated with the help of biometrics of prisoners, for example: fingerprints scans. Since modern fingerprints scanners only work when finger can belong to a living person. Biometric scan of inmates can save a lot of time in facility counts.
Correctional facilities can have a number of inmates, and each of them can be allowed to keep some personal property depending on their entitlement of cell property allowance. All items of personal property are recorded with as much identification details as possible. Recording of property identifications details, its relationship with inmates and further management of records becomes a burdensome process in a manual system and takes a lot of time and efforts. Associating property details with a biometric identity of inmates dramatically improves property management practices in prisons. Property details of inmates can be quickly verified just with a finger scan, and changes in records can be made as and when required.
Inmates are allowed to buy limited items from a prion commissary. Since inmates are not allowed to keep cash at prison, payment is done by debiting their commissary account. Prisoners can receive money either by friends / family or earn wages doing the work assigned at prison. Recording each transaction made by inmates at prison commissary and further calculations can entirely be automated by implementing a biometric device (e.g. fingerprint scanner) with the jail management system. Inmate’s commissary account gets automatically debited when he or she buys an item and gets his finger scanned. With biometric, there is no need to put time intensive manual efforts in commissary management.
Other than convicts, prisons can have a large number of personnel including correctional officers, service providers and other staff members serving in prisons operations. The number of personnel depends on the size of a correctional facility. Managing personnel can be very challenging in stressed environment of a correctional facility. Prison personnel biometrics can be registered in prison management system to manage their designation, schedules, shift timings, assignments, etc. Their arrivals and departures can be recorded just by a biometric scan, which results in improved payroll efficiency. Personnel management gets on auto-pilot with biometric powered prison management.
Cases and charges
Records of cases and charges need proper maintenance from inmate booking to release. Inmates under trial can often have status updates in their cases, charges, and sentence can also be amended when the verdict is given. Records of cases and charges can be easily maintained with the biometric identity of an inmate. Records of an under trial inmate are more frequently retrieved and updated than those who are already given verdict. Once biometric identity is established, inmate records can be quickly fetched and updated.
Inmates are often visited by their friends, family members or other allowed visitors. Some of the visitors can pose threats to jail security and try to break the rules. Common threat visitors often pose is the supply of contrabands like weapons, mobile phones, drugs to an inmate, which can lead to illegal activities and disorder within the prison. Biometric tracking of visitors can make sure that a doubtful visitor can be flagged in the system and activities can be tracked. If found engaged in any illegal activity, he or she can be disallowed to visit the inmate.
Jail can often be a challenging and complex environment. Despite the standard procedures and rules for everything, there may be undocumented scenarios that can come as a surprise. Despite being offenders, inmates are human first and like other humans, they can be managed with behavior management. Meeting inmates’ basic needs, defining and conveying expectations for inmate behavior and with proper staff conduct, this complex objective can be achieved.