Keeping an eye on things with fewer prison guards

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and for National Development Sun Xueling watching a demonstration of the prototype video analytics system yesterday, as prison officers simulated a fight between inmates in a cell. The analytics system
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and for National Development Sun Xueling watching a demonstration of the prototype video analytics system yesterday, as prison officers simulated a fight between inmates in a cell. The analytics system sends an alert to officers in the prison's control centre if it picks up aggressive motions.ST PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and for National Development Sun Xueling watching a demonstration of the prototype video analytics system yesterday, as prison officers simulated a fight between inmates in a cell. The analytics system
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and for National Development Sun Xueling watching a demonstration of the prototype video analytics system yesterday, as prison officers simulated a fight between inmates in a cell. The analytics system sends an alert to officers in the prison's control centre if it picks up aggressive motions.ST PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG

Prototype video analytics system that can detect fights among tech initiatives in prisons

The vision is to have fewer guards patrolling the prison cells but it does not mean that abnormal activities such as fights will go undetected.

In fact, new technology on trial at the Changi Prison Complex will make it easier for prison officers to detect fights.

The prototype video analytics system called Avatar, also known as the Human Behaviour Detection System, can detect acts of aggression using an algorithm that captures high intensity, erratic motions and various interaction points between two people in a cell.

Avatar is one of several new technological initiatives that the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) is piloting or implementing as part of the Prisons Without Guards transformational operational concept introduced in April last year. The analytics system sends an alert to officers in the prison's control centre if it picks up aggressive motions.

Previously, officers had to monitor closed-circuit television footage from cells to pick up any instances of fighting while officers also patrolled regularly round the clock.

The senior assistant director of the technology branch, Superintendent 1A Chan Kai Yuen, 45, told the media yesterday that while the system was still being fine-tuned, the trials had been promising so far and the system was able to detect actual fights in the cell.

He added: "The vision is such that we want to free up our officers from more mundane and routine activities so they can spend more time to engage in higher order work such as rehabilitation of our inmates."

  • SOME INITIATIVES

  • AUTOMATED MUSTER CHECKING

    Facial recognition technology is being trialled to replace the manual muster checks.

  • HUMAN BEHAVIOUR DETECTION SYSTEM

    Prototype video analytics system that can detect acts of aggression using an algorithm that captures high intensity, erratic motions and various interaction points between two persons in a cell.

  • INTELLIGENT LOGISTICS ITEM DISPENSER SYSTEM

    Self-service vending machines allow inmates to purchase canteen items by matching their identity with their weekly spending allowance.

Avatar is on trial in one prison cell in Changi Prison's Cluster B. If it is successful, the Singapore Prison Service will expand it throughout its institutions.

Other initiatives include automated muster checking, where facial recognition technology is on trial to replace the manual muster checks done by prison officers to account for inmates several times a day. With the new initiative, cameras in the cells capture the facial images of inmates and verify them with the records in the database.

The Intelligent Logistics Item Dispenser System uses self-service vending machines that let inmates buy canteen items by matching their identity with their weekly spending allowance.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and for National Development Sun Xueling toured the A4 cluster of the prison.

She said: "I am glad to see how the SPS is implementing and testing new technology to strengthen rehabilitation for inmates and improve operational effectiveness."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'Keeping an eye on things with fewer prison guards'. Print Edition | Subscribe