This article discusses biometrics as a tool for correctional management.
Biometrics is the automated identification or verification of human identity through measurable physiological and behavioral traits. Major biometrics technologies include fingerprint and iris scanning, facial recognition, hand geometry, and voice recognition. Many different types of biometrics are being researched for future use, including body odor, ear biometrics, facial thermography, gait analysis, and thermal imagery. Biometrics operates using a three-step process. First, a sensor makes an observation. The type of biometric device used determines the type of sensor and its observation. Next, the sensor captures a signature. A computer algorithm normalizes the captured biometric signature so that it is in the same format as an individual's signature that is stored on the system repository or token. Finally, a matcher compares the new normalized signature to the signature in the repository or token database. A measure of similarity or difference is computed for a comparison of normalized signatures. The biometric recognition can be used in the identification mode or the verification mode. In the identification mode, the system identifies a person from the entire population by searching a database for a match. In the verification mode, the biometric system authenticates a person's claim of identity from his or her previously enrolled pattern. The application of biometrics in prisons and jails is primarily in the verification mode and focuses on entrance and egress. There is an emerging consensus that fingerprint, hand geometry, iris recognition, and facial recognition are the biometric technologies most readily applied in corrections. In the near future, the types of biometric devices that are now most widely applied in corrections are not anticipated to change. The present devices can be expected to become less expensive, easier to use, and more accurate. The future deployment of biometrics in corrections will depend on how innovative correctional administrators will be and the continued improvement in the technology's accuracy. 9 endnotes
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