Culture 2 min read

China to Install “AI Guards” in Prison Cells

Ichigo121212 / Pixabay

Ichigo121212 / Pixabay

Prison escapes are on a global decline.

In 2000, the United States’ Bureau of Justice Statistics reported 37.1 escapes per 10,000 prisoners. And in 2013, this rate reportedly decreased to 12.7 escapes. The figure is similar all over the world.

South Africa reported a decrease in prison escape from 1,240 a year to only 15. In Canada, the authorities recorded only eight successful escapes in 2017.

While we don’t have the escape statistics for prisons in China, one thing is sure; the number is about to hit an even sharper decline.

According to reports, Yangcheng prison is wrapping up construction of its new smart surveillance system. This will enable guards to monitor inmates at every single moment, including when in their cells.

This new technology will make prison breaks virtually impossible. But there’s also a downside; it could wreak havoc on prisoners’ psyche.

Big Brother is Always Watching

Earlier in the week, the South China Morning Post published a story detailing Yancheng prison’s new surveillance system.

According to the story, the prison which houses the nation’s most high-profile inmates has almost completed its new AI-based surveillance system. This includes a network of cameras and sensors which uses facial recognition technologies and advanced movement analysis.

That way, not only would the AI effectively monitor individual inmates, but it’ll also produce daily reports about each inmate. Furthermore, it’ll notice and flag any unusual behavior.

In a statement to SCMP, Project representative Meng Qingbiao said:

“If an inmate has been spotted pacing up and down in a room for some time, the machine may regard the phenomenon as suspicious and suggest close-up checks with a human guard.”

As cutting-edge as it all sounds, the new surveillance tech may not be healthy for the inmates.

Mental Effect of the AI-Based Surveillance

Zhang Xuemin, a physiology professor at Beijing Normal University, believes that the new system will “definitely affect” the inmate’s mental state.

Although the professor did not elaborate on what the effect may be, it’s not difficult to guess.

Previous researches already show that constant surveillance not only increases a person’s stress level but anxiety too. Also, it decreases our level of trust in others.

In the end, Yangcheng prison would build an escape-proof prison, but the tradeoff could be its inmates’ mental health.

Read More: China Shuts Down Federal Corruption-Detecting AI

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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    Derrick Vanwyk April 11 at 9:06 am GMT

    Automation great barrier is that Technology should always match our values.

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