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Duress Systems in Correctional Facilities

NCJ Number
Corrections Today
Date Published
June 2006
2 pages

This article describes the types of duress systems available for corrections use and offers recommendations for selecting an appropriate system.


Duress systems can dramatically enhance correctional officer safety by providing officer’s the technology necessary to summon help to their location. The article begins by describing duress systems and their capabilities as well as the National Institute of Justice and the U.S. Department of Defense project to bring emerging military technologies to corrections and law enforcement communities. The three types of duress systems available for commercial sale are described: panic button alarms, identification alarms, and identification/location alarms. The benefits and limitations of each system are reviewed and reveal that panic button alarms are inexpensive and effective yet may be inaccessible because they are mounted to fixed locations. Identification alarms have the advantage of eliminating most false alarms yet the systems lack the ability to localize alarms within a facility. Identification/location alarms localize and track the transmitting device but they are more expensive than the other types of systems and are difficult to install. Advice is offered on how to select an appropriate duress system, including the recommendations to consider operational and maintenance costs, the flexibility of the system for later expansion, and the ease of day-to-day use.

Date Published: June 1, 2006