Texas prisons turn to digital fingerprints

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which oversees and operates the

state's prison system, will soon get digital fingerprint scanners to log

and help identify inmates.

The department recently awarded Minnesota-based Digital Biometrics Inc.,

which develops computer-based fingerprinting systems, an $850,000 contract

to supply the department with 12 live-scan fingerprint systems and 15 card

scanner systems.

About 38,000 inmates enter the prison system every year, said Glen Castlebury,

spokesman for the department. Instead of manually recording inmates' prints

with the ink-and-roller method, the live-scan systems will digitally record

their fingerprints immediately when they place their fingers on a plate

glass.

Castlebury said the card scanner systems would allow the state to also

make digital copies of current inmate ink records.

Once scanned, the digital fingerprint records would be instantly transmitted

to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has a repository for such

data and other criminal information. Storing the fingerprint data in a computer

will make it easier to identify inmates when they are transferred from one

facility to another, Castlebury said.

He said the state prison system, with a 154,000-inmate population housed

in 116 units, is late in using this technology. Other local law enforcement

agencies in Texas have already been using the technology.

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