From birth through adolescence, American citizens ride a metaphorical conveyor belt designed to calibrate behavior and prepare them for modern life. That conveyor belt is better-known as acculturation, and while it might seem outrageous to think of people as being constructed in the same way that cars and cell phones are produced, it really isn’t too much of a logical stretch. Recently, however, the manufacturing industry has progressed much faster than the social institutions building America’s future citizens. Companies have recognized the extraordinary potential that sensors can have in improving management, efficiency, and safety, and yet the average American jail currently ignores these sensors. JMS systems have helped bring jails into the present, no question, but if jail administrators want to reap the same benefits as modern factories, they should start by learning from the manufacturing sensors they employ:

What Manufacturing Sensors can Teach Smart Jails About Management

Whether it’s in a GM factory in Arlington, TX or a county jail in Springfield, MO, good management requires the most-relevant, up-to-date information. To this end, some manufacturing facilities have installed sensors with the ability to automatically notify facility managers of production anomalies that threaten process and quality standards. This means that anytime a sensor detects an anomaly in the assembly line like a malfunctioning robot or suboptimal atmospheric condition, managers are immediately informed on their smart phone.

This kind of immediate response technology is critical for companies like GM, who use sensors to monitor humidity conditions during vehicle painting. However, sensors that respond immediately could also be highly effective in jails, since negative behavioral events can happen in the blink of an eye, and proper planning and reaction time is critical.

What Manufacturing Sensors can Teach Smart Jails About Efficiency

Sensors improve manufacturing efficiency in a number of different ways. For instance, the pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck relies on smart sensing technology to conduct 15 billion environmental and process calculations to improve the vaccines they produce. There is simply no way all that work could be done by hand in a timely manner.

Additionally, food and beverage processors apply smart labels to incoming shipments when they are received, or even before they leave their point of origin. Because of this, metrics such as temperature, freshness, and expiration timelines can be tracked by the processors, ensuring spoiled food never makes it to a grocer.

Regional jails with inmates from multiple counties could make use of similar sensors and labels, since they have large inmate influxes from varying origin points. Ideally, a smart jail should strive to make the transition of prisoners between facilities as seamless as possible, with the least number of human inputs. And at the very least, these sensors and labels could be utilized by commissaries and kitchens looking to improve their food safety.

What Manufacturing Sensors can Teach Smart Jails About Safety

Jails are not thought of as safe places, it’s the nature of the institution. But neither were factories at the turn of the industrial revolution. The manufacturing industry has come a long way since then, and most current facilities employ sensors to increase occupational safety. According to Automotive Design & Production editor Lawrence Gould:

“Industrial safety sensors are a requirement from both a regulatory and liability standpoint. It also makes sense (no pun intended) economically: Sensors protect the investments companies make in people and machines on the manufacturing floor.”

If sensors can protect the investments companies make in their people and machines, those sensors should also be able to protect investments made in the correctional space. For example, motion sensors or accelerometers could trigger alarms and inform jail administrators when facility equipment is being tampered with. Noise sensors could also be used to keep track of vandalism, by recording and time-stamping exact instances of property destruction.

Conclusion

To sum all this up, the same sensor technologies and strategies already in place in the manufacturing sector could be a massive boon to U.S. correctional facilities. Smart IOT sensors have the potential to enhance jail management, efficiency, and safety through accurate real-time monitoring and data collection, as described in the examples above. However, the real reason incarceration officials should be striving for smart jails is the fact that improvement in any of these areas will ultimately be felt in the daily lives of their prisoners and inmates. Making life on the inside less volatile should be a principle goal of every warden. And while smart sensors may make for a powerful corrections tool, without the vision and dedication of the incarceration official, the whole facility will grind to a halt. Just like a broken conveyor belt.

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