Nov 05 2015

Iris-Scanning ID System Simplifies Processing at Minnesota Jail

Recording inmates’ irises is a faster, more accurate way of identifying them, officials say.

Prisons are increasingly turning to information technology to better manage growing inmate populations and hold down costs. One Minnesota jail, for example, is implementing a new eye-scanning system to identify inmates.

Roughly 11,000 inmates enter the Anoka County jail annually, Government Technology reports. Since Aug. 25, the irises of all new inmates are photographed upon booking.

“It’s a quicker and extremely accurate version of a fingerprint check," Anoka County jail Cmdr. Dave Pacholl told Government Technology.

The sheriff stores scanned-eye data inside of a private national database set up by the FBI in 1999. Although eye-scanning technology has been in existence for over a decade, it’s rarely used. According to Government Technology, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office is among just 100 law enforcement systems in the United States using it. An IT upgrade that added the two eye-scanning stations to Anoka County sheriff’s jail-management software had a $23,000 price tag, but jail officials consider it worth the money spent.

The Anoka County jail still records inmate fingerprints, but officials say iris scanning also minimizes errors such as the wrong inmate being released. This can happen, Pacholl says, when there are multiple inmates with identical names.

“It happens more than any jail would like to admit,” he explained.

In similar fashion, correctional officers in North Carolina are using IT to improve efficiency, accuracy and accountability. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety uses mobile devices to perform health and safety checks on inmates. It’s a far cry from the previous system in which officers recorded their findings via a paper system after patrolling the facilities. In Ohio, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office uses a similar system that Sheriff Jeff Grey says helps officials “know the checks were actually done.”

From iris-scanning devices to scanning tools, prisons and jails are incorporating technology that increases precision, saves time and reduces mistakes. 


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