New Realities of Security and Surveillance in Corrections

Article published in Security Today Magazine April issue.


Technology marches ever forward, lockstep with ‘Moore’s Law’. However the influx of technological change affects different industries in different ways. Some industries try to balance on the bleeding edge, seeking out competitive advantage and greater profits. Other industries find that good enough beats best if good enough gets the job done just fine. Until the job changes.

Then, what is ‘good enough’ changes into something new. The corrections/detention industry is undergoing this very change. For decades the constraints on security and surveillance in correctional facilities was essentially how many camera feeds can you fit into one screen and how many people does it take to watch all of the feeds. Based partly on technological constraints (analog CCTV, low resolution, fixed cameras, high cost etc) and partly on ‘how it’s always been done’ video surveillance was primarily a human scale endeavor.

Those days are ending. Video surveillance technology is leaping forward with real time frames per second (15-30FPS), High Definition (HD) resolutions, auto-follow cameras, motion detection and tracking, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based machine learning; among many other intriguing technologies. This technological tidal wave is multiplied by increasing federal and state regulatory requirements impacting surveillance coverage, retention times, video analysis and even legal challenges.

Technology x Regulations = New Realities 

The challenges of security and surveillance in the correctional industry are daunting. Instead of dozens of simple fixed cameras that can easily be monitored by a crew of security guards, correctional facilities now have many hundreds, or thousands, of high resolution, motion detecting, automated cameras and drones feeding millions of frames per minute. Those millions of frames must not only be recorded and analyzed, they also have to be retained for a year or more with zero frame loss.

These rapidly changing technologies combined with the weight of the regulatory environment are presenting not only new challenges, but more importantly new opportunities. Opportunities to bring entirely new levels of intelligence, service and safety to security and surveillance in corrections facilities.

‘Good enough’ video surveillance is no longer enough. Implementing an intelligent video surveillance system that meets regulatory requirements as well as delivers advanced functionality for today and builds in scalability and improvement for the future is critical. What is needed is an intelligently designed and implemented system that solves problems efficiently and effectively while leaving room for growth and improvements. And as always an empowered and well trained staff is essential to successfully take advantage of the tremendous opportunities an intelligent surveillance system delivers.

video surveillance solutionsFour keys to successfully implementing intelligent surveillance in the new security reality:

  1. Assume that all of your video surveillance will move to human analyzable levels (i.e. 20+FPS, HD+ resolution, full spectrum audio etc). – Human Analytics

Humans are amazing pattern-recognition machines and are remarkably good at discerning patterns from complex visual and auditory input. They have the ability to recognize a large array of different types of patterns – and then transform these  “recursive probabilistic fractals” into concrete, actionable steps based on what they learn.

As video surveillance in correctional facilities moves from watching for major events towards ensuring security and safety, the requirements for human analyzable video surveillance is driving a massive movement towards higher frame rates (20 FPS+), and HD or higher resolutions. To fully take advantage of human analytics in video surveillance requires that the incoming video is tuned to human movement and perception.

As a security professional in a large correctional facility told me: “It’s no longer good enough to see that someone is walking down the hallway carrying something. Real security demands that we can quickly identify who is walking and what they are carrying. Whether it is happening right the heck now, or during last week’s cafeteria service. We need to know, not just see.” That’s just one of many reasons why the demands of video surveillance are exploding.


  • Higher frame rates, resolutions and camera counts result in exponential growth in storage and analysis requirements.
  • Human security officers can not watch all the video streams equally.
  • Over 90% of all surveillance video is never watched or analyzed.


  • Using more staff to monitor, analyze and investigate with video surveillance can improve safety and job satisfaction.
  • Utilize motion detection, alerts and AI/machine learning to augment staff to respond more quickly and effectively.
  • Intelligently use technology and system design to get maximum video quality and data while keeping requirements within reason.


  1. 2. Acknowledge that advances in AI will continue to eliminate the need for human perception. – Video Analytics

All your video belongs to the AI. Based on decades of investment and research, AI based, machine learning video analytic engines are evolving into fully deployable products, with user-friendly interfaces and scenario-focused solutions. According to artificial intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil, “All learning results from massive, hierarchical and recursive processes taking place in the brain.” AI and video analytics will continue to bring substantial benefits to video surveillance.

Tim Palmquist, VP Americas, Milestone Systems says: “A lot of R&D now goes into making features in the VMS (Video Management System) to help human operators understand what is happening and what has already happened. AI will likely be the ultimate delivery on the traditional video analytics promise. The innovations underway in this area are very significant and ultimately game changing. Smarter software will ultimately render a lot of present-day actions obsolete.”

Artificial intelligence based video analytics is poised to drive entirely new security and surveillance solutions that deliver impressive results at lower costs.


  • AI and machine learning are leading edge technologies that require deep understanding and skill to implement successfully.
  • To truly leverage the power of AI, video surveillance systems must have the higher FPS and HD resolutions that also make them human readable.


  • While AI and video analytics are remarkably good at recognizing objects, events and patterns in video they require skilled analysts and investigators to interpret those results.
  • Build your security and surveillance systems with both long term storage and long term analytics in mind. Design for the future.


  1. Accept that new capture points like drones, robots, body cams and other systems will add complexity

The proliferation of edge capture devices is expanding at breakneck speed. Ground based drones, flying drones, body cams, and in-car cameras for prisoner transport are driving new security processes and adding complexity. Without a proactive plan, these new devices can overwhelm a video surveillance system. Add in the explosion of personal smart phones and all of the myriad Internet of Things (IoT) devices and a 500-camera system can easily grow by hundreds of inputs. Be aware of both the physical security and cyber security implications of these new devices.

Jennifer Hackenburg, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Dahua Technology USA says: “The issue of cybersecurity and protecting network surveillance systems will be at the center of every discussion with vendors and existing and new end-user customers to assess and combat the vulnerabilities of IoT devices.”


  • As if managing video from 100’s of fixed IP Cameras wasn’t hard enough, now the cameras fly, walk, drive and run around.
  • All IP connected devices present inherent security risks, newer IoT drives even more so, cybersecurity risks are exploding.


  • Empower staff to develop new skills utilizing new technologies.
  • Use these new mobile and smart security devices to improve officer and inmate safety and security.
  • Work with IT to implement facility wide BYOB and IoT cybersecurity polices that serve and protect in balance.

Read the rest of the article in Security Today Magazine April issue.

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