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Vulnerability Assessment: Correctional Facilities Are Only as Secure as Their Weakest Point

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 60 Issue: 4 Dated: July 1998 Pages: 88-92
Date Published
5 pages

Correctional administrators should conduct vulnerability assessments both at the design stage for new correctional facilities and prior to planning a security upgrade for an existing facility to identify security system deficiencies and vulnerabilities, evaluate possible improvements, and perform cost-benefit comparisons.


The first step in developing a security system design is to determine the system's objectives based on the facility's operations, security threats, and adversaries such as inmates who want to escape and outsiders acting in collusion with inmates or employee insiders. The next step is to determine how best to combine elements such as sensors, cameras, fences, barrier systems, contraband detection, entry control, control of interior movement, procedures, communication devices, and response personnel and weaponry into a security system. Decision-makers should use sophisticated analysis and evaluation techniques rather than a checklist approach to security design. Full system tests are not practical, so evaluation techniques are based on performance tests of subsystems with respect to adversary paths, timely detection, and the path with the lowest probability of interruption. Modeling tools available for assessing vulnerabilities include the Estimate of Adversary Sequence Interruption, which runs on a personal security; the Adversary Sequence Diagram, a manual method of graphically modeling the security system; Systematic Analysis of Vulnerability to Intrusion; and Analytic System and Software for Evaluating Safeguards and Security. Identifying weaknesses should lead to upgrading the system and conducting another analysis on the redesigned system. Figure and 5 references

Date Published: January 1, 1998