This paper describes research funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that will help corrections managers detect contraband and operate safer institutions.
A NIJ-sponsored pilot program used a millimeter wave imaging system to scan visitors at the Graterford State Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania. The imaging system can detect cell phones, weapons, and nonmetallic objects hidden beneath clothing. At Graterford, a maximum-security facility that houses approximately 3,100 inmates the system scanned 400 to 600 visitors a week. The system uses radio energy in the millimeter wavelength range from antennas that rotate around the person in a booth-like portal. Although this technology can detect items covered by clothing, it is not able to detect contraband hidden in body cavities. NIJ is currently funding the development of a system projected to have this capability. In addition, NIJ sponsored the development of a new handheld device that can detect contraband that ranges from plastic knives to cell phones. Called the WANDD (weapons and nonpermitted devices detector), the system integrates into an existing handheld metal detector. It scans fully clothed prisoners or visitors for contraband hidden under their clothing. Initial testing of the WANDD was at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail in January and February 2008. Another technology being explored involves radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. RFID uses small transponders called "tags" in order to track movements. The tags can be incorporated into devices such as wristbands with integrated circuits and tiny antennas that pick up radio signals. They can be used with a network of sensors called RFID readers in order to track the wearer's movements. A few correctional institutions have used the systems to track prisoner movements.