Prison keeps eye on inmate computer use
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Dec 11, 2000
To keep an eye on inmates using computers, a Florida state prison installed
a surveillance software program that lets an administrator using one screen
monitor a dozen computers in real time.
Alan Drake, a vocational education teacher with the state's Department
of Corrections, said inmates who are enrolled in computer education courses
sometimes use machines for unauthorized applications. He said this might
include playing games, creating game pools or doing legal work, which is
permitted only in the law library.
"You can't watch and walk around the class and look at each individual
machine," he said. "This [software] controls the atmosphere from the standpoint
that they will not be able to do clip art when they're not supposed to be
doing clip art. It restricts them to doing their work."
Created by Dunkirk, Md.-based Adavi Inc., the software program, called
Silent Watch, enables Drake to view all computers on his computer screen.
With a single keystroke, he can freeze an inmate's computer and lock it
up if the inmate is doing something unauthorized. To free it, the computer
must be shut down and restarted. Screens refresh every two seconds, and
an audible alarm can sound if a prisoner has typed a word or phrase deemed
Drake said the program also enables him to save or print a screen as
evidence of an inmate's transgression. All e-mails sent between inmates
within the closed network are automatically sent to Drake. The software
also keeps a keystroke history of each computer.
Although he hasn't had that many problems with inmates using computers
in an unauthorized way, Drake said such problems have been eliminated completely.
He said the program acts as a deterrent because inmates are aware of it.
Adavi spokesman David Crozier said Silent Watch, which can be used with
Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95/98/2000 and Windows NT, is used in schools,
organizations and companies. He said it could monitor up to 49 computers
on one screen.
It cost about $1,000 to equip Drake's 12 computers to be monitored with
Adavi's software, which has been in place for two months.
The prison course teaches inmates how to use software applications and
other programming. The prison does not allow inmates to use the Internet,
but lets them work on an Internet simulator program.