New retinal scan system at Harrison jail

Published 1:48 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Technology is helping corrections officers at the Harrison County jail make sure inmates are who they say they are.

The jail recently began using a $60,000 Retinal Scan System as part of the booking process.

Sheriff Melvin Brisolara told WLOX-TV in Gulfport/Biloxi that he and his staff are so impressed with the results they are already looking to expand the system.

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Now, every person booked into the Harrison County jail must stop and look into a pair of goggles.

“It’s a new system that uses the background of the color part of your eye. It’s 750 times more accurate than fingerprints,” said Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Justin Richards.

Jailers say within minutes, the information is gathered sent to a national database and compared to other profiles to help determine if the person arrested is lying about his identity or a wanted fugitive. The system began testing early this year.

Harrison County inmates are scanned a second time when they’re released.

“People try to walk out under the guise of being somebody else. We use it for positive identification purposes, so when they’re discharged, then we take them back and read it again and the computer will tell us this is the same person that you’ve already got in the bank,” said jail warden Don Cabana.

Richards said the county jail sees a lot of people during a year.

“Last year we figure we went through 26,000 in and out of booking. And this system confirms that the ones getting in are who we thought they were and the ones getting out are the ones we are trying to release,” he said.

Jail officials say with funding they could scan inmates already in jail when the system went online. They say that would make head counts easier and quicker than the current arm band identification technique.

“You don’t have to sit there and read an arm band. Arm bands can be swapped,” Brisolara said. “This gives you positive ID. for the individuals you are trying to account for. It makes it a lot quicker to be able to use the iris scan.”

Brisolara said he would also like to get a portable version of the system sheriff’s deputies could use in the field.

“It will save time with the officers out in the field being able to positively identify people. If you are executing a warrant or so forth, if they are already in the system, you can positively ID. them as being the right person on the warrant, so we’re very exited about that,” said Brisolara.