Tracking Inmates and Locating Staff with Active Radio-Frequency Identifcation (RFID)

Source: Laura J. Hickman, Lois M. Davis, Edward Wells, Mel Eisman, RAND Corporation, June 2010

Active RFID technology has been offered as a tool to track the precise location of inmates and pinpoint staff location in duress situations, rather than just inventory.

Active RFID-tagged devices may also be worn on a belt by correctional officers and staff within the correctional institution. These devices allow near-real-time monitoring of staff location, and some contain an officer-down feature that will generate an alert if a staff member falls to a horizontal position during monitoring. These units also come enabled with a manual alarm function that staff can use to alert a central monitoring station of an immediate need for assistance. In addition to their use for increasing staff safety, tracking of real-time alerts may offer the possibility of more rapid deployment of staff to developing incidents within the facility or otherwise improve the efficiency of population management. Active RFID systems also store inmate and staff location information over time for later playback. This function was designed primarily for use in investigation of incidents that may occur within the institution.

While active RFID technology has been offered as a correctional facility management tool, most of the accessible information about how well it works and its cost-effectiveness has been produced by the vendors, a source with a vested interest in promoting the adoption of their RFID products. Given the significant expense of purchasing and operating the technology, state and local jurisdictions could greatly benefit from an objective assessment of the early lessons learned in a jurisdiction already using RFID technology. The goal of the present report was to collect some of these early lessons learned to inform the corrections field.

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