RFID Bracelets To Track Inmates in L.A. County

By Roland Piquepaille

According to RFID Journal, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is about to launch a pilot program to track 1,800 inmates using RFID devices. If the test is successful, the technology will be deployed for the 18,000 inmates of the L.A. county jails. With this system, inmates carry a wrist bracelet which issues a signal every two seconds and is caught by RFID readers installed everywhere in the prison. Officers and staff also carry a RFID device attached to their belts. And a central server keeps track in real time of the position of all prisoners and guardians. Besides tracking locations, the system also intends to reduce violence within the jail and to avoid escapes. If this system works as its promoters think, the potential market to equip all federal, state and county jails in the U.S. exceeds $1 billion. Read more...

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Tracking prisoners is a great use for RFID tags. If prisons trust RFID technology it's a wonder why more businesses don't utilize it. Most still rely on the use of barcode scanners to maintain their inventory records by creating barcodes with barcode software and then printing them out on special barcode printers. One day, the benefits of RFID will most likely overwhelm the use of barcodes in businesses. Until, the debate whether RFID or barcodes is better will continue.

The technology used for this program, the TSI Prism system, is developed and sold by Technology Systems International, Inc. (TSI), a division of Alanco Technologies, Inc.

A wristwatch transmitter worn by inmates Here is a wristwatch transmitter worn by inmates (Credit:TSI). You'll find other details on the TSI Products page.

Now, let's see briefly what RFID Journal says about the system.

Where the TSI Prism system is in use, every inmate is issued a bracelet when he is processed. Approximately the size of a divers' watch, the bracelet includes an active RFID tag as well as a bar code if the jail system chooses to use it.
The RFID bracelet sends out a signal every two seconds to RFID readers deployed throughout the facility. The readers send that data to the system's control center. Officers wear RFID devices similar to the inmates' bracelets, but have their device attached to their belts. A red button is included with the device for officers to press in an emergency. If that button is pressed, or if an inmate enters a restricted area, an alarm in the control room will alert officers there.

With this system, guards will know if a staff member is in danger, or when an inmate is going off limits. But the program has other goals.

The RFID prison management system is intended to have a three-fold function. It ensures inmates do not escape by issuing an alarm if the bracelet approaches the jail perimeter; it reduces violence by allowing officers to monitor who is congregating with whom; and it allows for administrative functions such as tracking where an inmate is when they are needed.

TSI adds that the system also can reduce costs by eliminating headcounts throughout the day or by reducing insurance costs for prison owners.

For financial information, you can read this Alanco's press release.

Alanco's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Robert Kauffman, commented, "This LASD contract highlights a related new market for TSI PRISM in addition to the approximately $1 Billion potential U.S. Federal and State prison market. With approximately 700,000 inmates currently incarcerated nationwide, the potential U.S. County Jail market for TSI PRISM is in the range of $500 - $700 million."

The company doesn't say if this number represents a yearly market or a total amount.

Sources: Claire Swedberg, RFID Journal, May 16, 2005; and various websites

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