drone by barbed wire fence (Kletr/Shutterstock.com)

Prisons enlist drones to monitor inmates, grounds

The South Carolina Department of Corrections announced it will use drones to keep an eye on inmates and prison property.

The drones will be outfitted with high-resolution cameras as well as heat-sensing and night-vision capabilities to monitor attempts to bring contraband into the prison and watch for fights within the prison walls, the Associated Press reported.   The department has hired two pilots to help with the monitoring efforts.

For years, corrections officials have been fighting to keep drones out of the airspace around prisons. In 2015, a drone was used to drop drugs into an Ohio prison yard, and last year a drone delivered wire cutters to an inmate who used them to successfully escape (he was later recaptured). Now officials are turning to the technology to help them spot trouble.

The new drones, which will monitor all 21 of the state's prisons, have already been in use at some facilities for a few months. The new policy comes shortly after a deadly riot at Lee Correctional Institution that was in part fueled and orchestrated by the contraband drugs and cellphones in that prison, DOC told The Post and Courier.

While the new drones are flying 400 feet above the prison yards, the interiors of the correctional facilities have also received an injection of new surveillance technology. The DOC has added 400 cameras to its 21 facilities with plans to add 250 more, The Post and Courier reported.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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