Welcome To The Technological Incarceration Project, Where Prison Walls Are Replaced By Sensors, Algorithms, And AI

from the shocking-new-approach dept

At heart, a prison is a place where freedom is taken away, and inmates are constrained in what they can do. Does that mean a prison has to consist of a special building with bars and prison guards? How about turning the home of a convicted criminal into a kind of virtual prison, where they are limited in their actions? That’s what Dan Hunter, dean of Swinburne University’s Law School in Melbourne, suggests, reported here by Australian Broadcast News:

Called the Technological Incarceration Project, the idea is to make not so much an internet of things as an internet of incarceration.

Professor Hunter’s team is researching an advanced form of home detention, using artificial intelligence, machine-learning algorithms and lightweight electronic sensors to monitor convicted offenders on a 24-hour basis.

The idea is to go beyond today’s electronic tagging systems, which provide a relatively crude and sometimes circumventable form of surveillance, to one that is pervasive, intelligent — and shockingly painful:

Under his team’s proposal, offenders would be fitted with an electronic bracelet or anklet capable of delivering an incapacitating shock if an algorithm detects that a new crime or violation is about to be committed.

That assessment would be made by a combination of biometric factors, such as voice recognition and facial analysis.

Leaving aside the obvious and important issue of how reliable the algorithms would be in judging when a violation was about to take place, there are a couple of other aspects of this approach worth noting. One is that it shifts the costs of incarceration from the state to the offender, who ends up paying for his or her upkeep in the virtual prison. That would obviously appeal to those who are concerned about the mounting cost to taxpayers of running expensive prisons. The virtual prison would also allow offenders to remain with their family, and thus offers the hope that they might be re-integrated into society more easily than when isolated in an unnatural prison setting. Irrespective of any possible financial benefits, that has to be a good reason to explore the option further.

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Comments on “Welcome To The Technological Incarceration Project, Where Prison Walls Are Replaced By Sensors, Algorithms, And AI”

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62 Comments
Matthew M Bennett (profile) says:

I thought you guys were somewhat libertarian leaning. Please tell me you see SOME consequences to this sort of thing? The fact that we’re talking about monitoring those around the convict, also, through voice & facial recognition? No? Not like there’s an opt out for that. Or that you could conceivably have an entire society “imprisoned” and under government control, unlike a normal prison system, there’s no limit?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

How about…
* Failing to pay for the electronic monitoring is a crime.
* Failing to report for parole or hearings is a crime.
* Dying while monitored is a crime
* Driving over the speed limit is a crime.

So if you’re rushing to your parole officer to explain why you haven’t been able to pay for your electronic monitoring, the induced spasms for the speed limit violation result in the failure to report and maybe the death.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

How about…

>* Failing to pay for the electronic monitoring is a crime.

>* Failing to report for parole or hearings is a crime.

>* Dying while monitored is a crime

>* Driving over the speed limit is a crime.

Of course, the majority of repeat offenders – those doing life on the installment plan – have no money. So basically, this put the offender in the position of having to get his girlfriend or family to support him – pay for food and lodging. Note too with super-cheap “incarceration” comes the temptation to over-sentence. So… will failure to charge your ankle bracelet become a punishable offense? Whose fault is technical failure? How do these things work in the bath, or is hygiene optional now?

Real incarceration is a much better idea because it makes the state appreciate the burden it is taking on by trying to control someone longer-term. I suspect this option just becomes a “get out of jail free” card for the independently wealthy – few of whom go to jail nowadays anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I suspect this option just becomes a "get out of jail free" card for the independently wealthy

No it won’t for the reason you already stated:

Real incarceration is a much better idea because it makes the state appreciate the burden it is taking on by trying to control someone longer-term.

They, the government, want out of that arrangement. If they can get away with throwing someone into isolation and forget about them with absolutely no consequence, and no cost, then they can do as they please with criminal sentencing. No one will care if they are not paying for it. (Well, no one that matters anyway.) Given this ability, they will go nuts with increasing the length of prison sentences for easy brownie points with their voters for "being tough on crime". More injustices will be committed, (Hell, the summary already mentions potentially lethal electric shocks as an "enforcement" mechanism. How that doesn’t violate the cruel and unusual torture clause is beyond me. (Of course, they don’t care about that….)) and it still won’t change the recidivism rate. (Worse, it may make it worse.)

Nevermind that you can bet your ass this tech will be used outside of the criminal realm. Person of Interest‘s Samaritan would be proud.

All I can say here is: BOHICA.

sehlat (profile) says:

They won't stop with the homes of those convicted of crimes.

Sooner or later, laws will be passed restricting the freedoms of average citizens in their own homes. No smoking in homes with children comes to mind as an obvious example for a vector of attack. There are endless others, I’m sure.

And, of course, the rich and powerful, the "some are more equal" crowd, and the Deep State will have exemptions and special treatment. Something like this will make Orwell look like an optimist.

R.H. (profile) says:

Re: Re: They won't stop with the homes of those convicted of crimes.

As per usual, generalities tend to leave holes to be exploited. If someone is in my home and I’ve asked them to leave and they then make a credible attempt on my life, I’m completely within my rights to defend myself with deadly force here in Michigan. In some states (Texas comes to mind first here) just them refusing to leave after being asked to do so gives one the right to use deadly force.

Be careful where you are when you make your statement, especially if you decide to live by it. Otherwise, you may not live long. I always try to know the limits of self-defense law in places that I plan to visit, it just seems like a good way to avoid the potential of injury to myself on one side and potential jail time on the other.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: They won't stop with the homes of those convicted of crimes.

Oh “great”… here comes Mr. “Let’s try to pass off a law that would penalize not paying attention to the Big Brother screen on the wall w/ built in camera always focused on you with other parties watching everything you do 24/7…. to be the same thing as a “thou shalt not murder” law”….

Do us a favor and slit your own throat, so we don’t have to hunt your worthless state worshiping ass down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They won't stop with the homes of those convicted of crimes.

The politicians always use some perceived threat in order to justify their ridiculous intrusions, like that makes it all ok when they decide everyone (except them) is a criminal and needs surveillance simply because politicians are paranoid schizophrenics. They have nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide … right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: They won't stop with the homes of those convicted of crimes.

Which is why politicians then resort to perverse means to stay in office. Like promising everything to their constituents when they have no hope of delivering.

Another is when they act and react to current events by supporting a plan that helps in the short term but has major ramifications in the long term. For example not paying money into pensions because they want to fund something else while assuming it won’t negatively affect retirees in the future because that is for some other politician to deal with.

Then there is another option by politicians to go full Orwellian on their constituents to keep them in line. To help out with that politicians will join up with well funded special interest groups to control the populous.

New Mexico Mark says:

And the monitoring AI "thinks"...

“Hmmm… this prisoner takes a walk in his yard every day right after that buzzing four-winged bird passes overhead and drops a large poop. He even cleans it up each time! Recommend plus parole points for healthy lifestyle and conscientious behavior!”

Yeah. No way to trick this system, and no way it would be expanded more and more to “help” “maladjusted” citizens.

Prisons should be ugly and expensive. That way, the problem of a huge prison population can’t be hidden in plain sight.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Hello pre-crime

Under his team’s proposal, offenders would be fitted with an electronic bracelet or anklet capable of delivering an incapacitating shock if an algorithm detects that a new crime or violation is about to be committed.

Among the problems with this idea this part in particular stuck out for me. An incapacitating shock when a ‘crime or violation’ is about to be committed? Even assuming a 100% accuracy rate(and good luck demonstrating that) that’s still punishing someone for what they will/might do in the future, rather than what they are/have done, and that I most certainly do not agree with.

If those putting forth the proposal want to demonstrate the accuracy of such a system then I welcome them to wear such devices, fully active, themselves for several years to do so. It likely won’t change my position, but it would show conviction and a willingness to put themselves through at least some of what they are proposing for others.

Those who have been found guilty of crimes and incarcerated have less freedoms than those that have not, but taking it this far seems to be going to extremes when the focus could be solving things like re-integration into society in less intrusive/excessive ways.

Daydream says:

The 'incapacitating shock' bit offends and infuriates me.

Victims would live in fear of a false positive; they’d be risking their lives every time they went up or down the stairs, or they crossed the road, or were driving a car, or holding a cup of hot tea or moving something heavy…or heck, literally all the time, unless you can convince me that an ‘incapacitating shock’ doesn’t put someone at risk of serious head injuries when they collapse.

Home detention is fine. AI to preemptively predict if a crime is going to be committed could be great in the right hands. But having a machine automatically brutalise someone on suspicion that they’re about to commit a crime? Angers me enough to want to kill this Dan Hunter.

Maybe you should rewrite this article a little bit, Glyn. Do more to promote the home detention and crime prevention bits, denounce the potentially-lethal-electric-shock part…and, hmm, most crime is committed by low-income or no-income groups, right? Is transferring the costs of imprisonment to them really going to be beneficial to their rehabilitation?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The 'incapacitating shock' bit offends and infuriates me.

“most crime is committed by low-income or no-income groups, right?”

It depends.
If you are talking about quantity of reported instances, I would believe this to be true given adequate supporting data.
But ….
If measured in damage done to society, then no. The amount of damage done by Wall street greed barons is astronomically huge compared to the petty crimes that make up the large number you refer to.

David says:

Oh good grief!

Leaving aside the obvious and important issue of how reliable the algorithms would be in judging when a violation was about to take place,

I thought we were over lie detectors as a working concept.

At any rate, the problem is that thinking about doing something activates the same brain areas as actually doing it, and the whole point of sentences is to get people thinking about what they are doing and then decide not doing it again.

This is naive and stupid on so many levels that the only kind of government considering it is the kind of government that imagines torture to be effective and desirable.

It’s the "it has sort of a scientific ring to it and someone is willing to take money for doing it, so there is no reason to engage conscience" idiocy that Americans love so much to see in action.

Anonymous Coward says:

Leaving aside the other implications this has I don’t find the whole “offender-paid” plan to work. What if they can’t pay for such a thing?

If the idea is to move away from brick and mortar prisons then I find the idea to be counter-intuitive on it’s face because not everyone can afford such a “luxury” and considering most crimes are done by people of low-income it just reinforces a self-fulfilling cycle except now they’re scrambling to pay for the equipment IN ADDITION to trying to feed their family.

Then there the potentially lethal shock that is based on what an algorithm and AI THINKS is going to happen. Hello thought-crime at best and too scared to do anything out of fear it’ll generate a false positive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Considering there’s already a huge issue with courts farming out fee processing and collections to exploitative third-party companies, where minor violations can get you dragged off to de facto debtor’s prison, I can only see this as an extension of the current broken system which encourages local governments to oppress their poorest citizens in order to save a buck.

Sok Puppette (profile) says:

The technology on which this would rely...

… does not exist, and nobody has the slightest idea how to build it.

Only a credulous idiot would think that today’s AI was even remotely close to being able to tell when a real crime was being committed, let alone when one was about to be. That would require at least human-level AI, and probably better than human.

Yes, there’s stuff that can watch parking garage video and detect behavior that’s often characteristic of people trying to break into cars… and then alert an actual person to watch that camera. No, there is nothing that can tell with any certainty when somebody is ACTUALLY trying to break into cars.

And that is a million times easier than somehow detecting any possible kind of pre-crime that may have been dreamed up by somebody with weeks to plan it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The technology on which this would rely...

Agreed. What they call “AI” is just novel applications of the same old handful of “machine learning” algorithms, maybe with some other simpler code added.

There is no AI. It is 100% marketing buzzword hype to try to sell “solutions” to the ignorant.

Or in this case, a cynical, amoral effort to sell garbage to the vicious and stupid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sounds like a training collar that would be cruel to use on a dog. This is a truly misguided and offensive concept. I recommend reading the source article in whole. After the “AI” magic nonsense it compares the broken American and Australia corrections systems to the actually advanced ones in Scandinavian. No eye of sauron needed. Just some basic human decency and respect.

Anonymous Coward says:

>Leaving aside the obvious and important issue of how reliable the algorithms would be in judging when a violation was about to take place

That’s quite a thing to leave aside. But OK, let’s leave that aside and assume they are, somehow, reliable.

We still have many issues. There are fifth amendment due process implications when you start punishing people before the crime. There are also potential issues with fourth amendment seizure requirements (I think an electric shock is essentially “seizing” someone.) An algorithm is now *automatically* probable cause for a seizure, with no review and nobody to take in into context? Arguably, there’s also eighth amendment “cruel and unusual punishment” concerns; that sounds like a rather severe shock.

Not to mention the fourth amendment implications for the rest of the family, when there are cameras and microphones in their home 24/7. (This article doesn’t use the words “camera” or “microphone”, instead using the euphemism “lightweight electronic sensors”. But if it’s doing “voice recognition and facial analysis”, then that pretty much means cameras and microphones, of sufficient quality to do that.)

Forcing people to pay for it means a two-tiered justice system. You can get released from prison, but only if you can pay us?

GEMont (profile) says:

A grim future indeed

Hmmmm…. punish could-be offenders, before they offend…

Does this “system” signal the final demise of the notion of “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”, in America?

After all, if the punishment is administered BEFORE the crime is committed – preventing the victim from actually “doing the crime”, just exactly what was the punishment administered for, since no crime was committed??

Is “Thinking about committing a crime” to become an actual crime, once this sort of system becomes reality? If not, how does Authority explain its “right” to administer punishment upon someone who has NOT committed a crime?

This sounds a lot more like News From Russia, or Baghdad than America. Then again, this is now a Trumped-Up America, so I guess there’s not really that much difference anymore.

Sieg Heil Y’all.

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