Facial recognition applications range from the fun and flighty to the downright necessary. At Alabama’s Madison County Jail, facial rec is serious business.
In an article by Security Director News, Steve Morrison, the jail’s chief deputy, revealed a shocking secret of the corrections world: Sometimes, the wrong prisoner gets released.
"We've actually had a couple of guys with the same name that were assigned to the same pod, and one was asleep and they called for this guy and [the other one] said, 'yeah, that's me,'” Morrison told SDN. “And they took him downstairs and let him out—he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. That's what helps you get the approval and the funding to be able to buy equipment like this. Things like that happen. … Humans make mistakes."
To ensure this mistake never happens again, Madison County Jail has installed a 3-D facial recognition system from National Security Resources. With the new system, jail officials will take a photo of each prisoner, mapping 40,000 data points of his or her face. Then, upon leaving the jail, each prisoner will be scanned by the technology to verify his or her identity.
Morrison is working with NSR to look at the technology's other potential applications, including securing doorways and visitation rooms.
The company hasn't received much publicity, but it has sold the technology to some big players, including the Department of Defense, FBI, CIA and Interpol, Turpin said. "When you ask them what they're using it for, they won't say," he said. "They say 'yeah, we're using it.'"
Sometimes Turpin learns about what the government uses the technology for. Last spring, Turpin received a call from CNN. The news outlet claimed to have verified that the Department of Defense had used the company's facial recognition technology to identify the body of Osama bin Laden and requested an interview with the company's founder, Glenn Crowe. The government wouldn't confirm the technology's use. "We had to back away from that interview," Turpin said.
So far only the county jail is using the NSR facial rec, but Morrison said he hopes that the system will be adopted by other law enforcement agencies within Alabama, which would eventually share their collective databases.