RFID Put Behind Bars

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Nov 04, 2010 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Inmate Tracking, RFID, RFID Wristbands, Active RFID

Helps Keep the Peace and Cut Costs in Prisons

Prison BarsThis week we’ve seen a few examples of the ways in which RFID-enabled wristbands can be used to track people for attendance, management and security purposes. The Washington D.C. Department of Corrections is using similar types of wristbands to track the location of the inmates in its Central Detention Facility (CDF). Its goal was to improve safety and cut down on costs.

Monitoring the inmates’ movements helps keep them out of restricted areas. It also helps staff members to find an inmate more quickly should that particular person require assistance or some sort of immediate medical attention. As a result, mistakes on headcounts decrease and so do the instances of prison lockdowns. Lockdowns force the corrections officers to remain on site past their assigned shifts and cost the prison in paid overtime. Needless to say, unnecessary lockdowns due to counting errors cause them to throw money out the window.

CDF completed the installation of an RFID system from TSI Prism with AeroScout WiFi compatible technology. At the time of their booking, inmates are issued a wristband or ankle bracelet enabled with a 915 MHz active RFID tag. The tag is encoded with a specific ID number for each inmate. Both the wristband and ankle bracelet are tamper resistant and send out an alert should it be removed or attempted to be removed. Readers are placed throughout the facility to track the inmates throughout the prison compound.

RAND Corp., a nonprofit research institution conducted a study on the CDF’s use of RFID. The study, "Tracking Inmates and Locating Staff with Active Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID): Early Lessons Learned in One U.S. Correctional Facility," found that in order to truly receive the benefits of implementing an RFID system in a prison, the facility must first fully and clearly outline its objectives.  Because the systems require customization, comprehensive training of the staff is critical. If possible, a pilot study is recommended in one area of the prison to help ensure proper training and gauge inmates’ reactions, among other information gathering tools to help prepare for the full implementation.

The study concluded that if a facility follows these guidelines, the benefits of an RFID system could be significant. It even speculates as to other possible uses and benefits, such as to keep known enemies away from each other to avoiding fights and creating a safer environment for both inmates and guards. Take it a step further and fewer fights could mean lower medical costs and less paperwork.

It’s logical that the same cost and safety benefits would apply in situations where people are released on parole with monitoring devices designed to confine their movements to home and place of employment as well as for inmates when they leave the facility to go to court and help clean the highways.

Hopefully those who hold the purse strings see the big returns from RFID in correctional facilities.

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