Corrections – safety, security, and humane care of offenders

Corrections has always had four primary functions – retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation – although the relative importance of each has fluctuated over the years depending on shifting social attitudes, political climates, and new technology.

The increasing success of new technologies in other industries is creating the latest shift in corrections, with the objective of managing costs while providing humane care with a strong focus on rehabilitation. For example, artificial intelligence (AI), video surveillance, and advancing sensing technologies can help improve physical security to safeguard both inmate and community safety, while managed access to specialized services can assist with inmate rehabilitation and eventual release.

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Top Priorities

The corrections system has found that, for select offenders, serving time in community settings during probation and parole offers several benefits. At-risk populations can be spared a potentially unsafe prison environment. Individuals can become more economically self-sufficient for a more successful transition back into society. And the justice system can feel confident that it is meting out punishment while significantly reducing overall costs. 

Technology solutions, which can make these situations safe for the community, monitoring officers, and offenders, can help:

  1. Track offender conduct, location, and compliance with on-body and perimeter-based solutions.
  2. Reduce recidivism through evidence-based interventions.
  3. Ensure the well-being of monitoring officers with wearables that transmit status, location, and emergency events.
  4. Offer interactive training to adequately prepare and quickly onboard monitoring officers.

Correctional staffing is a long-standing issue, one that has been severely exacerbated by the pandemic, employee burnout, and early retirement. Managing and monitoring the population of offenders is dependent upon facilities being able to attract, train, and retain sufficient qualified people. However, many facilities routinely have a significant percentage of unfilled positions in both security and support staff.

To reduce the prison population that requires active management, correctional systems need different ways to address personnel shortages:

  1. Develop training systems that more accurately reflect on-the-job conditions to quickly on-board and prepare new employees.
  2. Introduce evidence-based practices that are shown to improve employee satisfaction and retention.
  3. Automate routine processes, such as on-foot patrols, guard tower stations, and vehicle inspections with site-installed perimeter monitoring and electronic surveillance.
  4. Use offender wristbands, in-facility sensors and cameras, and yard drones to reduce workforce needs.

The availability of contraband in correctional facilities is on the rise with an increase in smuggled items such as SIM cards, drugs, escape paraphernalia, and weapons. A significant source of contraband issues comes from drones as they can be used to distract guards, conduct external reconnaissance of facility patterns and weaknesses, and drop packages. The lack of adequate staff means that contraband deliveries can go unnoticed.

The key to preventing contraband drone drops is to undertake a number of technology-based initiatives:

  1. Increase overall perimeter security measures and even physical barriers such as netting.
  2. Add drone visual, acoustic, and/or radar monitoring technology.
  3. Add systems that interfere or prohibit cellphone use.
  4. Employ signal jamming on drone frequencies in jurisdictions that allow it.

The growing reliance on technology makes correctional facilities increasingly vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. The threat of these attacks can be to disable security cameras, door lock mechanisms, or internet services, scramble facility databases, or release private inmate information. Often, ransomware attacks are conducted to extort money but a cyberattack can also be used to cause chaos or prevent a facility from fulfilling legal obligations such as inmate care. Thwarting these attacks and maintaining the safety of offenders, staff, and community is an issue of extremely high priority.

Correctional facilities looking to adopt some best practices to better manage ransomware issues could consider the following:

  1. Consistently use IT cybersecurity best practices such as reducing attack vectors, deploying antivirus software, maintaining up-to-date security patches, and blocking known ransomware sites.
  2. Develop and implement an incident recovery plan with a list of critical contacts.
  3. Do not allow personal applications and websites on work computers, and prohibit personal devices on work networks.
  4. Carefully plan, implement, and test data backup and restoration strategies.

Key Forces of Change

Technology Integration

Correctional facilities increasingly depend on numerous workforce-augmenting technologies. However, linking together the wide diversity of technological solutions can be a very difficult and lengthy task, yet is mandatory for effective facility operations. This drives requirements for open standards, architectures, interfaces, and sensor fusion to fully integrate all solutions for well-functioning establishments.

Drones

The availability of drones – both by facilities for surveillance and individuals for contraband – is changing the correctional landscape. Solutions are needed to allow facilities to deploy their own drones while also preventing unauthorized drone intrusion from inmate collaborators. The rapid advance of technology makes it difficult to predict specific implementation details. Thus, open architectures and interfaces are required to maximize continued interoperability between drone utilization, drone defensive capabilities, and perimeter security systems.

Prison Reform

Several factors are driving the exploration of different correctional avenues to live alongside the traditional prison model: more stress on evidence-based practices, the desire for more humane treatment of offenders, and decreases in corrections staffing and funding. Technology can assist with many of these, from automating mundane, lengthy, or potentially dangerous tasks to better training officers in humanistic correctional practices.

The Future

No one can truly predict what the future holds. That’s why organizations need to focus on developing frameworks and infrastructure that empower them to make decisions and implement policies that can rapidly and meaningfully adapt to changing requirements.

AI Surveillance

Continuing pressure on correctional budgets and workforces combined with the need for increased efficiencies will expand the need for new AI-based technologies to track inmates, eavesdrop as required, and flag unusual patterns and suspect behaviors.

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However, unrestricted use of AI is not without issue and requires carefully weighing the tradeoffs of personal privacy versus public safety. AI models are guided solely by the data they are trained on, which can cause the system to give an unpredictable response to novel situations or develop unanticipated biases. However, with proper supervision and validation, machine-based monitoring may hold the promise of fewer personnel and fairer results.

AI Health and Safety

The desire for better inmate conditions will drive increases in technology. Machine-vision systems will be trained to monitor inmate behavior to improve prisoner health and safety by alerting staff to potential conflicts before they flare up as well as to health issues such as seizures, collapses, or impending incidents of self-harm. 

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While AI health care technologies will offer clear benefits to the rehabilitation process, they must be monitored carefully with the understanding that AI will not erase all operational constraints and will have limitations of its own that are still being explored.

Proactive Outcomes

The corrections sector will increasingly play a more proactive role in improving public safety and offender outcomes with the shift away from punitive functions toward treatment and reintegration. Key indicators and benchmarks will drive the collection of data that will be analyzed to build policies and practices that are data-based and effective.

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Both will cause more non-violent offenders to be electronically monitored in community-integrated sentences. It will also mean smaller facilities near to offender communities for increased access to families, transitional services, training, treatment, and employment. Correctional institution architectures too will change, offering a less visibly hardened atmosphere that has been shown to reduce aggressive inmate behavior. Indeed, replacing some of the visually intimidating perimeter security measures like razor wire and guard towers with hidden or disguised security measures like fiber-optic perimeter sensing or intelligent lighting can have a positive effect on prisoner conduct.

Solutions

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Detect Escapes and Intrusions

Senstar offers a range of perimeter intrusion detection products, all of which can be used together as part of a multi-layered system. Activity near the perimeter (internal or external) can be detected via buried sensors, microwave sensors, or advanced outdoor video analytics. The fence or wall can be protected by FlexZoneSenstar LM100 or 
FiberPatrol fence-mounted sensors, while isolation areas between fences can be monitored with UltraWave microwaves or OmniTrax buried RF. These systems were designed with correctional facilities in mind and, in addition to offering the highest rates of detection, incorporate advanced algorithms to reject nuisance alarms generated by environmental conditions like heavy wind or rain. Alarm data from these systems can be linked to video and security management systems, ensuring correctional officers know the precise location of the intrusion attempt.

Monitor Sally Ports

Senstar offers multiple options to detect intrusions and activity at gates and sally ports:

·         Wireless Gate Sensor – Avoid wiring issues on sliding gates. The wireless sensor is powered from its built-in solar panel and/or internal battery. An auxiliary input can monitor the status of gate latches or other devices.

·         UltraWave Microwave – Fully digital and stackable, UltraWave provides volumetric detection at controlled access points.

Manage Incidents

Comprehensive video surveillance equips correctional officers with critical information for assessing and responding to situations. Senstar Symphony software can direct attention to specific events, link associated cameras together, enforce privacy rules, and track events using PTZ cameras. For correctional officers stationed throughout the facility, compact video display appliances can provide localized video feeds. For post-event investigation, autosummary, intelligent search, and video export features enable staff to quickly collect and share relevant video.

Control Movement

A key requirement within correctional facilities is the ability to monitor movement. The Senstar Symphony Common Operating Platform provides a single interface for video surveillance, security management, and access control. For example, alarms from sensors at sally port gates can be temporarily masked during legitimate events like deliveries while the event is timestamped and recorded in the accompanying video surveillance footage. Inside the facility, requests to open doors can generate notifications within the software. Automatically called up cameras enable the operator to assess the situation and simply click an on-screen control to open the door or engage a two-way intercom.

Maintain Visiblity 24/7

Most correctional facilities are well-illuminated at night. However, in addition to causing light pollution, traditional security lighting comes with high on-going energy and maintenance costs. Intelligent perimeter lighting like the Senstar LM100 can reduce energy costs by as much as 95%, requires virtually no maintenance, and includes built-in perimeter intrusion detection capabilities.

Keep Staff Safe

Staff in correctional facilities require the ability to quickly summon help via a personal duress device. Senstar offers ultrasonic systems designed to meet the highest standards of performance and reliability. With the press of a button, pull-pin release, or man-down event, the transmitter emits an encoded ultrasonic signal. As ultrasonic signals do not penetrate walls, ceilings, or floors, the signal is confined to a specific room, ensuring correct and reliable locating.

Integrate with Existing Systems

Senstar sensors work with virtually all security systems. Software integrations are available for industry standard video and security management systems, while built-in I/O capabilities ensure that Senstar products can be deployed alongside other security devices, including stun fences, legacy detection systems, loudspeakers, and sirens.

Multi-Layered Protection

Senstar products are designed to work together to provide comprehensive, multi-layered protection. For example, Senstar video analytics can identify authorized maintenance vehicles and temporarily mask gate alarms while outdoor analytics can direct PTZ cameras to record high-definition video of potential intruders before they trigger a fence sensor. In addition to new security capabilities, all events can be managed from single software interface that improves response times and reduces training requirements.

Resources

NIC Corrections Environmental Scan

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NIC Technology In Corrections

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Envisioning an Alternative Future for the Corrections Sector Within the U.S. Criminal Justice System

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