U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Evaluating the Use of Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) Technology to Prevent and Investigate Sexual Assaults in a Correctional Setting

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2009
87 pages
This evaluation examined whether Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) technology deterred inmates from engaging in prohibited behaviors such as sexual assault and violence at the Northeast Pre-Release Center (NEPRC) in Cleveland, OH.
Two serious problems with RFID implementation and use at NEPRC were identified by the process component of the evaluation. First, the technology was not fully implemented due to limited resources. This restricted its ability to confirm facility-wide head counts, which essentially rendered the technology nothing more than a perimeter control device. The limited implementation of RFID technology at NEPRC did not increase staff's ability to detect misconduct, increase inmates' risk of detection for misconduct, or deter prohibited behaviors. Second, NEPRC experienced technical problems that resulted in the interruption of RFID service for weeks, forcing the evaluation team to adopt a less desirable two-phased impact evaluation approach. Thus, the evaluation was unable to determine the degree to which RFID technology, when implemented to its full capacity, deters inmates from prohibited behaviors. Still, the evaluation yielded important lessons for corrections practitioners who are considering investing in this technology. They should ensure that they have sufficient resources to support the full implementation of all capabilities of the RFID system, be able to fund continuous technical support, and effectively train staff in the use of the technology. As envisioned for use in correctional facilities, RFID transmitter chips can communicate to staff the locations and movements of inmates within the prison. It can be programmed to issue alerts when inmates are out of place, in prohibited locations, or are in proximity to individuals with whom they have conflict. In addition, RFID historical records can be used to investigate allegations of inmate misconduct. The evaluation methodology involved a three-pronged data-collection and analysis strategy that is described in this report. 3 tables, 6 figures, 49 references, and appended evaluation protocols and "evaluability" assessment

Date Published: October 1, 2009