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Counting on Biometrics

NCJ Number
Date Published
2 pages
A project underway at the Prince George's County Department of Corrections (DOC) in Maryland uses facial recognition technology for employee verification and access control.
The importance of such a system was brought home in 1987 when Cuban inmates from the Mariel boatlift took more than 100 staff hostages at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, and there was no means of determining the identity of the hostages. The Prince George's County DOC system uses a camera and computer to create a mathematical algorithm, or formula, of an employee's face. When each employee is enrolled in the system, this unique formula is transferred to a chip that is embedded in a proximity card the employee must carry. On arriving at or leaving work, the employee places the card in a card reader and stands in front of a camera. In seconds, the employee's picture appears on a computer screen. The computer scans the employee's face and compares the resulting mathematical formula with the original. It takes only a few seconds. Funded by the National Institute of Justice and other Federal agencies, the project has been operating for just over a year. Overall, the facial recognition project has been successful; it has been accepted by employees and operates smoothly, with few false positives. There are plans for seamless access control, whereby a door opens or locks upon the verification, or lack of it, of an employee. This article also discusses why biometric features, other than facial recognition, would be more appropriate for inmate identification.

Date Published: January 1, 2003