Most people are familiar with how technology is enabling new forms of crime. What they don’t know is how technology is transforming prisons, as well. Here are a few ways how technology is transforming correctional facilities. We’ll also address the benefits these technologies provide to both prisoners and their overseers.
Video surveillance makes prisons safer, since it allows staff in a central location to watch what is going on throughout the facility with fewer out making physical rounds. That it lets them record everything for later use in disciplinary hearings or criminal trials makes everyone safer, since prisoners assaulted by other prisoners have their side of the story backed up by video evidence. Newer cameras are wireless, so surveillance isn’t lost by cutting a cable, while they are far more rugged and reliable, so they cannot be taken out by a single blow.
RFID is short for radio frequency identification. Some prisons are now applying RFID to inmates. No, they don’t get implanted chips. Instead, they are given electronic bracelets with RFID to track their movements through a facility. The RFID bracelet will trigger an alarm if a prisoner enters a prohibited area like a cell block where a victim was.
Counting prisoners is far faster when you have Guardian RFID system generate the numbers as compared to a visual inspection, and the RFID scans will let guards know if someone is unconscious in the bathroom instead of their cell. Depending on how often location information is recorded, it can be used to warn security if too many prisoners are congregating, or which prisoners are meeting up at regular intervals. And RFID is attractive because it doesn’t rely on more expensive biometric technology and still works if there is overcrowding.
Teleconferencing technology has been implemented in a number of ways. Letting family members visit via teleconference from a technology center near them or through their own computer makes “visits” possible even if the incarcerated prisoner is located hundreds of miles away. For some families, it makes it possible to let a child see Dad versus keeping the child at home for fear of what they’d be exposed to when visiting prison.
In some cases, teleconferencing allows prisoners to attend court “remotely”, whether they are too dangerous to transport or at risk of assault if they testify in person at court. In some facilities, prisoners with mental health issues are able to consult with psychologists via teleconferencing to receive the right type of care.
Telemedicine allows doctors to attend to patients without meeting them in person. This can save money for prisons by letting them rely on nurses plus teleconferencing technology to tap into a doctor’s expertise only as required. We already addressed the ability to bring in psychology experts to talk to patients whether to better treat mental health issues or identify whether or not they are truly insane in the first place. Whether having doctors use cameras to look down someone’s throat or consulting with an OBGYN for high risk pregnancies when a woman is incarcerated and reporting problems, patients receive a higher level of care without the security risks and costs of transport.
Technology has greatly transformed prison security and how prison officials and guardians administrate correctional facilities. We can expect technology to keep affecting the world of corrections in more ways than one.