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Biometrics: Applying an Emerging Technology to Jails

NCJ Number
Corrections Today
Date Published
2 pages

This report discusses the potential of emerging biometric technologies to enhance the security of jails and other correctional facilities.


Jails, more than any other correctional facility, have an extremely diverse population of short-term prisoners. Jails face the challenges of overcrowding, staff shortages, and limited funding, yet are still expected to secure and meet the demands of this diverse population of inmates, which often include both men and women as well as juveniles. The National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Office of Science and Technology (OST) has implemented a technology program that seeks out technologies useful for the specialized demands of correctional facilities, including jails. One of the most promising technologies applicable to corrections use is biometrics, which comprises automated methods of individual identification based on physiological or behavioral characteristics. OST has recently funded two biometric projects, one of which involves the use of facial recognition technology to identify staff and visitors while the other involves the development of a smart card with an embedded biometric key for inmate identification and management purposes. OST will continue to search for relevant, affordable, and user-friendly technologies that meet the specialized needs of jails.

Date Published: January 1, 2000