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The Eyes Have It

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2006
3 pages
This article describes the technology and function of the iris recognition system used by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (Golden, CO) to identify inmates moving in and out of its jail.
The iris of each eye has a complex pattern that is permanent and unique to that eye, which makes it suitable for identification. Iris recognition technology captures an image of the iris pattern with a camera, analyzes the digitized image mathematically, and compares the unique template to those in a database. The scanner does not touch the individual, and a high-quality camera can capture the image from up to a yard away. Independent evaluations and deployment experience have found iris recognition technology to be highly accurate. Its major disadvantage is that no national criminal database of iris templates exists. The Jefferson County facility has five stations for processing inmates: booking, transportation, work-release outbound, work-release inbound, and final release. The jail uses both stationary and handheld iris scanning devices at these stations. No inmate has been wrongly released since iris scanning began at the jail, and no mismatches have occurred. It is also fast (matches are made in less than 4 seconds) and efficient.

Date Published: October 1, 2006