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Using Technology to Make Prisons and Jails Safer

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2009
4 pages
Publication Series
In describing technologies for making prisons and jails safer, this article addresses the following projects funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ): testing airport scanners in prisons, new portable scanners for detecting improvised weapons, and tracking prisoners and identifying prison “hotspots.”
An NIJ-funded pilot project at the Graterford State Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania involved testing a visitor scanner system used to scan passengers at airports. The system beams radio energy in the millimeter wave spectrum from antennas that rotate around the person. The energy is reflected, and scanners produce an image of the body and any objects hidden beneath the clothing. This scanning system improved contraband detection in prison visitors, detecting cell phones on several occasions; however, the system does not detect contraband hidden in body cavities. NIJ is currently funding the development of a system based on electric field tomography that will detect contraband in body cavities. NIJ also awarded a grant to Luna Innovations, Inc., for the development of a new device that can spot items made of any type of material. The device developed is called the Weapons and Non-Permitted Devices Detector (WANDD). It is a handheld system that scans fully clothed people for contraband hidden under their clothing. Although designed specifically to detect nonmetallic contraband, it detects metal as well. In another project, NIJ is evaluating the effectiveness of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to be used in District of Columbia jails. This technology uses small transponders called “tags” to track inmate movements. The project involves collecting information on jail operations so as to measure any changes that occur; for example, the research will take accurate measurements of violent incidents during a typical month in order to determine whether violence declines after the system is installed. 2 notes

Date Published: March 1, 2009