Selarang Park Complex taps tech to manage inmates

Inmates need only to scan wrist tags and faces to access areas, without being escorted by prison officers

Unlike what is standard procedure for those imprisoned elsewhere in Singapore, inmates at the Selarang Park Complex do not have to be escorted by prison officers to access several areas there.

For example, they only have to scan their wrist tags and faces at turnstiles located between two of the complex's facilities before they are allowed through.

This is possible due to extensive closed-circuit television (CCTV) coverage of the facilities and the use of facial recognition technology.

Selarang Park Complex, which was officially opened by Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam yesterday, became fully operational in September last year.

It comprises several facilities, including a Drug Rehabilitation Centre.

The complex is the first and currently the only prison site in the country to use facial recognition technology, said the Singapore Prison Service (SPS).

Facial recognition technology can also be used to remotely conduct muster checks - headcounts of inmates in their cells - to complement the routine physical muster checks by prison officers.

Images of the inmates would be captured through CCTV cameras in their cells, with any discrepancies between these images and those in the prison database highlighted to prison staff.

"Additionally, facial recognition capabilities also facilitate the detection of unauthorised access at strategic locations," said the SPS.

The agency also said that using facial recognition technology had reduced the time and effort required for physical muster checks and escort duties within the complex.

"As a result, prison officers are availed to perform higher- order functions in rehabilitation and operations."

A 30-year-old inmate said that he did not have any problems getting used to the technology implemented at the complex, adding that facial recognition technology can already be found in smartphones.

"The challenge is for the older inmates," he added.

In his speech at yesterday's opening, Mr Shanmugam said: "(The complex) is a new milestone with better infrastructure, incorporating technology and programmes to support inmates and our officers, who will be better empowered to help the inmates."

He also said that there were plans to introduce a new community-based programme (CBP).

CBPs allow suitable offenders to serve the tail end of their sentence in the community, with conditions imposed.

The new programme, called the Employment Preparation Scheme, will be an expanded version of the Work Release Scheme, an existing CBP.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.