Technology initiatives unveiled as part of 'prison without guards' transformation

By 2018, officers will be able to remotely track inmates through a chip embedded in their wrist tags.
By 2018, officers will be able to remotely track inmates through a chip embedded in their wrist tags. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Prisons officers on duty are now equipped with mobile devices to access inmates' data at a glance and capture information, including pictures, into the prison management system while on the go.

By 2018, officers will be able to track inmates attendance through a chip embedded in their wrist tags, while they are at work, counselling or rehabilitation programmes.

These initiatives to leverage technology are part of the Singapore Prison Service's (SPS) transformation towards being a "prison without guards", which was outlined on Thursday (April 13) at its annual workplan.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, in his opening speech, said that with advancements in technology, "you don't need prison guards to be watching physically, being around prisoners all the time".

"This will really help our officers free up their time to do other things," he told some 350 staff present at the event held at Singapore Expo.

Speaking to reporters before the event, SPS' Director of Transformation and Technology Koh Tong Hai said that freeing officers up from guarding duties does not mean that security in the prisons will be compromised.

Rather, this will enable a prison officer's work to be expanded to take up "higher order jobs," which includes engaging inmates in rehabilitation and analysing key data to better tailor these efforts to each inmate's needs and risks.

The new devices, called the mobile Prison Operations and Rehabilitation Systems (Ports), comes with the upgraded prison management system rolled out in September2016.

Also announced on Thursday (April 13) was the Digital Rehabilitation Records Management System, which automatically tracks inmates activities through near field communications technology.

The system, which is being piloted this year at Changi Prison Complex Institution B3, tracks attendance records through a chip embedded in inmates' wrist tags. SPS aims to roll this out at other institutions in 2018.

In addition, Changi Women's Prison will begin a pilot later this yearto use a body scanner to screen and detect hidden or contraband objects under inmates' clothing.

The Millimetre Wave Body Scanner will reduce the reliance on physical searches as inmates move around prison, or when they have to leave and re-enter the prison compound for scheduled court hearings.

Mr Shanmugam also noted that there is an ongoing trial at Tanah Merah Prison to allow inmates to use tablets.