Alabama to require biometric scans for prison visitors

September 5, 2012 - 

The Alabama Department of Corrections has implemented a new policy that requires visitors to state prisons to have their fingerprint scanned before entering prison facilities. It is the first state to implement the requirement. Alabama has 29 correctional facilities with approximately 25,500 adult inmates.

Brian Corbett, the Department of Corrections spokesman said: “Our IT department came up with the idea of scanning fingerprints as part of an upgrade. We still require visitors to have a government-issued photo ID, and that requirement will remain in place. But there are times when someone else resembles the photo on an ID. Scanning the fingerprint of visitors verifies they are who they say they are.”

Corbett said scanning fingerprints makes the visitation process more efficient and faster. The visitor places his or her index finger on a fingerprint reader in order to verify their identity. Correction officers will no longer have to look at every ID to verify each visitor. Furthermore, Corbett assured the public that visitor fingerprints will not be filed in a database or shared with law enforcement.

David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at American Civil Liberties Union, has called the scanning of prison visitor fingerprints an “extreme requirement”. He argues it is an unnecessary barrier to visiting inmates. “There is study after study that shows the vital role interaction with family and friends plays with inmates while they are in prison.” He notes a criminal background check of each prison visitor is already part of the routine and argues that fingerprinting inmates might serve as a deterrent for prison visits.

Do you think the Alabama Department of Corrections is justified in submitting it visitors to fingerprint scans?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.