Five Emerging Technologies For Safer Prisons


February 2022


Brett Longley

Five emerging technologies for prisons wanting to become safer and more efficient.

The UK Government is carrying out the biggest prison-building initiative in a century and has pledged to invest £100m through the Security Investment Programme. The Prison Strategy White Paper highlights the role emerging technologies should play in the prison service’s future.

Based on this vision, here are just some advantages that the latest security and surveillance technologies offer prisons wanting to become safer and more efficient.

1. Enhanced gate and perimeter security

As technology evolves, so do the attempts to breach prison walls. Drones are a particularly popular method for smuggling banned items.

Perimeter detection systems that integrate thermal cameras, movement sensors, access control and mapping help tackle this challenge. It is even possible to create ‘air perimeters’ with virtual tripwires. Prisons may also use drones as part of their perimeter patrols.

2. Scanners

Body scanners are routinely and effectively used in prisons, as well as other high-risk sites. More recently, technology has advanced beyond standard metal detectors to full body scanners, which give an accurate picture of any concealments. Ideal for prison entrances and exits for non-invasive visitor screening but also for inmate checks.

3. Fire evacuation

Alarms should be integrated with access control to help manage fire containment and evacuation routes. But they can also trigger emergency lighting, pre-recorded announcements, and on-screen instructions for surveillance teams accompanied by live camera footage of the fire’s location. This allows alerts to be verified and for appropriate guidance to be issued to prisoners, staff and first responders via integrated comms.

4. Staff and inmate monitoring

With technologies such as RFID tags, video analytics, personal radios, body-worn cameras, man-down sensors, mapping and access control data, prisons can identify the status and location of staff at all times. Similar technology can also be used to monitor inmate movement between zones. Paired with surveillance footage, the right support is dispatched swiftly in relation to any safety or security incident.

5. Automated procedures

Technology can automate a wide range of key procedures – from cell searches to security checks for visiting hours. This alleviates staff pressure and can prevent unnecessary guard/inmate friction. Video analytics and workflow solutions are a particularly powerful combination for automation, as they link anomaly detection (from objects to behaviour) with action – for example the automatic dispatching of guards when a group of inmates in a specific area exceeds a certain number.

Making this happen

How do you combine all these technologies and processes to ensure that staff and the relevant authorities have access to accurate information when needed?

With the right command and control surveillance and operational management solution. One that supports integrating new and existing third-party technologies and interoperability between connected systems. This provides prison-wide real-time intelligence and the means to take efficient action – whether manual or automated. It also means prisons can flexibly scale their solution, integrating technologies to meet specific needs at a pace and budget to suit each case.