Iris-scanning technology helps deputies keep a closer eye on inmates

Iris-scanning technology helps deputies keep a closer eye on inmates

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - On Thursday, an iris-scanning system helped Harrison County deputies identify a shoplifting suspect in Biloxi who claimed she was "Princess Diana". The system revealed her true identity, Elizabeth Dionne Franklin of Mobile.

The scanner helps officers keep an eye on inmates.

A mug shot is not the only picture taken when a person is booked at the Harrison County Jail. As the detainee stands still, a camera takes pictures of the person's eyes. The images are immediately sent to a company in Maryland, which looks at the unique, web-like patterns in the irises.

"If the blood vessels are strong enough, it'll pick those up too," said Justin Richards, who once worked in the booking department at the jail.

Deputies will find out right away if the person has been processed before. It's considered faster than waiting for fingerprint results.

"Currently, the Life Scan system we use for fingerprints takes 20 minutes to two hours for a return, whereas, this takes 20 to 40 seconds for a return," said Richards. "The iris part of your eyes have like a web look to it and it's unique to each individual. Fingerprints have only nine points of identification. The irises of the eye have 750 points of identification."

Harrison County purchased the original system in 2008 for around $40,000. Richards said it was needed after an inmate impersonated another inmate to bond out of jail. Since then, it has been upgraded. Richards say the scanner has helped catch at least two people using a false identity every month.

"We've had a lot of people get arrested, claiming to be somebody else. When they come here, they first get booked in at the eye scan machine. We'll be able to identify them immediately and let the patrolman know that this individual's not telling the truth about who they are," said Richards.

The information is entered into a national database of more than two million people, and shared with other agencies that have the same biometric technology. Richards says the machine provides a more accurate way to identify, register and track inmates when they are released.

"It is awesome. The stuff that we have now that we can use to make things so much safer for the community and for the taxpayers in general and even the inmates inside the facility," said Richards.

Harrison County is the only jail on the Mississippi Coast with the eye-scanning technology.

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