When many of us think of prisons, we think of archaic buildings filled with iron, steel and concrete, with equally primitive infrastructure. What we rarely consider or appreciate is the huge part that digital and transformational technology is playing in both how prisons operate, and how inmates engage with their prison environments and outside worlds.
We know that every single industry is experiencing digital transformation – and the justice and prison sector is no different. The digital revolution is shaping how justice is delivered, sentences are served, and prisons are run.
This article identifies just some of the critical considerations for the digitalisation of correctional facilities, a topic that means much more than ‘going paperless’. As per nearly every other sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for digital transformation in the criminal justice system – both in the UK and across the world. The techUK Digital Justice Working Group has brilliantly explored digitisation within the various areas of the justice system – from digital courts and crime prevention to prisons of the future and infrastructure, and this is our response to their superb whitepaper.
IOT tech is transforming prisons into smart buildings
Smart building technology enables building owners to manage everything from security to energy expenditure and much more. IOT includes cloud-based software, hardware, and sensor networks that enable devices withing prisons to be connected, remotely monitored, and managed. IOT technology is optimising processes, making prisons more cost efficient and ultimately reducing the margin for error from end-to-end.
Prisons and Smart Tech
IOT delivers insights and resources to prisons that simply haven’t been available before. In a correctional environment, the most obvious advantages to this unprecedented data are improved safety and security (of both prisoners and staff), but IOT also has plenty to offer in other important areas.
As per all other sectors, smart technology is evolving and even replacing outdated prison practices. It is supporting staff and their organisations to perform operational tasks more efficiently, effectively, and more quickly than before – reducing time away from key tasks and thus maximising staff productivity and fulfilment.
The work undertaken by prisons is hugely expensive, which is perhaps why robot prison guards have been deployed in South Korea. However, at the handsome cost of $879,000 per robot, we don’t think they’ll be they be replacing human wardens across the UK anytime soon.
In prisons, as per any facility with a huge array of equipment, assets must be monitored to ensure they don’t get misused or go missing. IOT technology (often in the form of tags, sensors, and readers), is delivering accurate inventory management and control throughout prison estates. It is helping prison managers and staff locate items and people in real-time, as and when required. Kinsetsu has always talked about how we bring certainty, savings, time and traceability to healthcare and defence, and there isn’t a prison in the UK that couldn’t use more of these!
RFID tags and sensors represent a fast, cost-effective, and brilliant way to track the movement and location of inmates and staff. For example, they can be configured to alert prison staff if a significant concentration of inmates gather in a particular area, enhancing security systems and overall safety of all parties within the prison environment.
The RFID tech can monitor inmates suspected of being a contraband carrier, and flag unusual activity that hints towards a potential issue. It can also be used to raise alerts if rival inmates become too close to each other and alert to the presence of people in restricted areas.
An RFID wristband can hold the records of each inmate and officer, location, date and time, giving staff essential data on inmates’ prison histories. Tracking systems will automate headcounts with rapid speed and precision, in real time, eliminating the need for any handwritten logs.
Cell checking solutions
RFID solutions can also automate security or cell checks in seconds and give rapid proof of presence. They also allow prison guards to log observations on any inmate immediately and collect details of cell searches.
IOT insights excel in giving prison management a single view of all their building’s systems, allowing them to make critical decisions quickly – as opposed to reactively. Asset tracking, which is available 24/7/365 via real-time reports, gives prison staff actionable data to make informed decisions and strengthen compliance, accountability, and internal governance.
Health and safety
Smart technologies offer endless benefits in prisons, including the monitoring of environmental conditions in facilities (which can include anything from temperature to air pressure and humidity). They also offer the opportunity to monitor inmates’ heart rate, breathing and movements, and notify guards if an inmate requires immediate healthcare or emergency attention.
The IOT consists of billions of internet-enabled and connected devices and sensors that transmit a continuous stream of data. For leaders in prisons and across every industry, access to better, more accurate and real-time data is not only beneficial, but essential.
Can technology stop a prisoner from intentional criminal activity whilst incarcerated? Of course not, but it can absolutely help to create safer and better environments for prison staff and inmates. Kinsetsu is exploring the possibilities that smart technology is bringing the UK prison sector. To explore it with us and be part of the conversation, get in touch.