By Stephanie Weagle, CMO, BriefCam
It’s no secret that the start of a prison sentence often does not mean the end of a criminal career. Offenders often remain just as active inside correctional facilities, ranging from assaults against officers and fellow inmates to orchestrating crimes committed outside prison walls. The widespread criminal enterprise in the South Carolina state prison system that law enforcement cracked last December is a glaring example of the ongoing crisis within facility walls.
Many of these crimes are enabled by “burner” cell phones that are smuggled in, enabling criminals to keep in contact with their gangs on the outside and intimidate victims and witnesses. Weapons are also snuck in regularly, empowering criminals to unleash especially violent assaults on other inmates. Many prisoners also use drugs to escape the boredom, depression and frustration of everyday prison life.
The high crime rate within prisons is in part exacerbated by overcrowding and a lack of capable personnel. This is why correctional facilities rely on force-multiplying technology like crime analytics software, which draws connections between disparate data sources to give guards a deeper understanding of inmate rivalries, gangs, victims and witnesses. However, as prison crime shows no signs of abating, many are now investing in video content analytics to keep staff, inmates and outside communities safe.
All corrections facility managers have video surveillance cameras to monitor inmates in various areas, such as cell blocks, individual cells, recreational areas, dining areas, loading docks, and administrative offices. However, it can be challenging for guards to constantly monitor every camera in real-time and time-consuming to dig through hours of video footage in the wake of an event. Video content analytics solutions allow prisons to maximize their video surveillance systems and gain actionable intelligence from the footage.
Video analytics software makes surveillance footage significantly more valuable by extracting, identifying and classifying video metadata (such as appearance similarity, color, size, and direction of movement), making the footage searchable, actionable and quantifiable. This enables prisons to leverage detailed video searching, real-time alerts, and comprehensive intelligence of trends over time. It also helps prison officers create perimeter protection, monitor behavior within the prison, and identify vehicles or persons of interest through license plate and facial recognition technology.
Below are more details about how correctional facilities are benefiting from video analytics software:
Video content analytics play a critical role in situational awareness, enabling law enforcement to effectively monitor and prevent or intervene in events as they unfold. The systems can count people in a viewing field and trigger an alert when a threshold is exceeded, indicating that a fight or riot might be imminent. Similarly, proximity identification can be used to set off real-time alerts when inmates are gathering suspiciously close together.
Alerts can also be configured to trigger when two or more prisoners dwell in a single area outside of their cell for a long period of time. This could indicate an attempt to access a restricted area or an exchange of drugs or contraband.
Additionally, line crossing features enable perimeter protection and can be configured either outside a prison to prevent drones or individuals from sneaking contraband in or out, or within the facility to alert when a restricted area is accessed.
Real-time alerts enable officers to respond quickly and proactively, rather than in the aftermath of a potentially violent event.
Facial Recognition Technology
Facial recognition technology is another video analytics feature that is helping to keep prisons safe. It allows operators to maintain a watchlist of facial images to ensure that only approved personnel have access to restricted areas. When unauthorized individuals enter those spaces, an alert is triggered. This allows security to respond and apprehend the unwelcome individuals.
This tech also allows correctional facilities to compile watchlists of inmates suspected of engaging in illicit activities like contraband smuggling, and trigger alerts when they exhibit suspicious behavior. Smuggling is one of the key ways that inmates continue their criminal careers from behind bars. To stop crimes like drug trafficking and limit prisoners’ interactions with criminal networks on the outside, officers need the ability to monitor for smuggling.
Video content analytics play a critical role in the investigation process. When incidents occur, operators can sift through significant amounts of video in a fraction of the time it would normally take. They can use dwell and count-based filters to search video footage from multiple cameras, and pinpoint where inmates were congregating and, possibly, plotting violent or illicit activity. Search and filtering features enable them to narrow their focus to specific time frames and locations so they can zero in on the incident in question.
Patterns Over Time
By turning raw video data into quantifiable findings and dashboards, video analytics help law enforcement discover patterns and trends that ultimately lead to safer facilities. With a comprehensive overview of dwell times, foot traffic hot spots, and movement patterns over time, managers can pinpoint the spots where inmates generally gather at different times, so staff can be positioned there.
As correctional facilities continue to face staffing shortages and rising crime rates, many are turning to video content analytics to better monitor incidents in real-time, understand activity patterns and aid investigations. The technology can do more than just maximize existing resources; it can be invaluable in the effort to keep inmates, officers and outside communities safe.