Smart Prison: Applying IoT in Correctional Facilities

When we imagine a prison environment, people would often think it to be antiquated institutions that contain and deal with offenders who have complex social needs / Photo by: Anurak Ponapatimet via 123RF

 

When we imagine a prison environment, people would often think it to be antiquated institutions that contain and deal with offenders who have complex social needs. And because of the nature of life inside such facilities, it is hard to imagine them using modern technology. But that is far from the truth. Jails, believe it or not, are also taking advantage of technology.

 

Technology Behind Bars

Nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative, for instance, previously revealed in its study that about 12% of jails across America provide video visits. There are also various companies that focus on the prison systems, such as American prison technology company Securus Technologies, inmate video visitation solutions provider HomeWAV, and corrections-related service provider JPay. Driven by the inmate’s need to communicate, correctional facilities are definitely connected to the internet as well. This was noted by digital service provider AppDirect's IoT Global Practice Lead Terry Hughes.

IoT in Correctional Facilities

Aside from the use of tablets for communication and video visitations, correctional facilities have also opened its doors to the Internet of Things. IoT is the extension of internet connectivity into everyday objects and physical devices. One application of IoT can be seen in the wall-mounted sensors that are devised by a team of researchers from the General Electric. When sensors are mounted inside the prison cells, it can keep track of the vital signs and movements of the inmates so that it can alert prison officers if an inmate is attempting suicide.

GE has tested the technology at the Western Correctional Institution in Maryland and it was proven to be 86% accurate in terms of determining if people in cells needed assistance. GE shared that they modified radar equipment so that the sensor can pick up even the most delicate movements of the chest caused by heartbeat and breathing. The sensor can also detect vital signs and movements through walls or other non-metallic objects, making it more useful if the inmate attempts suicide under their bed.

By embracing IoT technology and allowing it to connect various tech services and devices, prisons can be transformed into a smart correctional facility. It likewise promotes a safer environment for the inmates, personnel, and visitors. 

IoT is the extension of internet connectivity into everyday objects and physical devices / Photo by: everythingpossible via 123RF

 

RFID Tracking

Prison administrators can further make use of radio-frequency identification or RFID to track the location of their inmates. Basically, RFID works by encoding digital data in smart labels or RFID tags. These data are captured via radio waves. So, prison administrators may embed RFID tags in handcuffs to serve as their tracking system. That way, their officers will know where everyone is at a certain period. It will allow them to know who was involved in an incident inside the prison or where it particularly happened. In short, the RFID tags will allow more efficient investigations. Prison staff will likewise know the prison histories of those involved.

RFID tags can also be beneficial for correctional facility administrators if they want to keep the members of rival gangs away from each other. For instance, the system may trigger an alarm whenever the rival gangs are within a few steps of each other.

Basically, RFID works by encoding digital data in smart labels or RFID tags. These data are captured via radio waves / Photo by: andreynikolajew via 123RF

 

Telehealth Examinations for Inmates

A smart prison facility may further make use of wearables that will transfer data into the Internet of Things platform, allowing real-time monitoring of the inmates’ physical conditions. For example, the device can be placed into the uniforms of the inmates.

Texas prisons have likewise deployed “telehealth” so they can treat and diagnose inmates remotely. Texas prison administrators believe that it reduces the cost of transporting inmates that need medical attention and likewise reduces the risks for doctors too.

 

Environment Monitoring System

Environment monitoring system or EMS monitors the physical environment of the place. It considers different factors, including sound, light, humidity, water leakage, power, smoke, airflow, and many more. Prisons can use environment monitoring system or sensors so they can check the condition of the correctional facilities, particularly the air humidity, air pressure, and air temperature. All of the data gathered by the EMS will be centralized to the Internet of Things paradigm, providing insights for the jail administrators to automate and control the process.

IoT in Cell Doors

 Smart prisons can moreover apply IoT when opening and closing the cell doors. This can be made possible by wireless access points. This way, locking and unlocking the security doors can be done through a Wi-Fi connection and the process provides both flexibility and security on the part of prison officers and administrators. The risk, though, in Wi-Fi deployment in prisons is that there is also a potential for hacking not just internally by prisoners who are tech savvy but also externally. External hacking can be done by people challenged to penetrate the W-Fi security controls of prisons. Nevertheless, any tech deployment in prison should focus more on the inmates and establishment’s security and not just for profitability, reminds secure prison cell phone solutions provider meshDETECT.