Facial recognition technology to combat prison drug trafficking, Justice Secretary reveals


Facial recognition technology is a very effective solution that enables the precise identification of visitors who may be trafficking drugs into prisons, Justice Secretary David Gauke has revealed.

A biometric system featuring facial recognition technology has been successfully tested at 3 jails and is part of a wider crackdown on drugs entering prisons, the government stated.

This trial comes against a backdrop of wide-ranging measures to tackle drugs and violence in prisons, including security scanners, drug search teams, digital technology to identify criminal kingpins and a Financial Crime Unit with the power to freeze suspect bank accounts linked to prisoners.

Intelligence work has identified a trend of prison visitors supplying illicit items to multiple prisoners and jails across the estate. These individuals have been difficult to track, however, as organised criminals may also falsify their identity documentation.

While some prisons have fingerprint recognition, most sites use paper-based verification, using documents like driving licences. In addition to being open to abuse by contraband traffickers, this system is slow and resource intensive.

The state-of-the-art biometric technology allows prison staff to identify visitors using applications based around document validation, iris scanning and facial recognition software.

It has been successfully trialled at HMP Hull, Humber and Lindholme. The Prison Service is now looking at how this, and other similar technology, could be used most effectively across the estate.

The machines highlight suspicious individuals, allowing staff to refuse entry and providing evidence that could be used in any subsequent Prison Service or police investigation. This will mean police and prison staff can better target the activity of those that seek to bring drugs into prison – disrupting their criminal networks.

It can also act as a deterrent, with one trial prison seeing a higher than usual ‘no shows’ rate at visits after attendees found out the software would be in operation.

Tensor – suppliers and installers of high-end, secuire facial recognition systems

Tensor’s facial recognition solution is perfect for video surveillance and tracking, access control, and visitor monitoring in environments requiring a high level of security.

The system can dynamically compare images of individuals from incoming video streams, of varying quality, against specific databases and send immediate alerts when positive matches occur. It also quickly manages real-time multi-recognition of faces in highly crowded environments.

The software has an amazingly high level of accuracy and is even able to analyse the 8K resolutions generated by the most high-end CCTV surveillance cameras. Its smart technology has in-built data analytics; detecting and estimating gender, age ranges and ethnicity – there will be more to follow later. The application is also able to conduct 50 million comparisons per second, making it the fastest system in the world.

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