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South Carolina prisons will use drones to monitor inmates

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The AP reports that South Carolina justice officials have revealed plans to use small UAVs to remotely monitor inmates at prisons.

The drones, the first of their kind for American prisons, will be tasked with curtailing the influx of drugs and cellphones which frequently make their way over prison walls and into the hands of prisoners.

Officials have hired two former military veterans to pilot the new drones. The men will tour around the state’s 21 facilities, fly their crafts a height of around 400 feet and use their video screens to monitor what’s going on. At such a high altitudes, prisoners will not necessarily know the drones are above them.

South Carolina prison staff showed off their drones to reporters and even though they filmed from a great height, the images were reportedly crisp and easily identifiable.

Somewhat ironically, part of the reason authorities are turning to drones in order to combat contraband coming into prisons – is that prisoners figured out some years ago that drones were a handy tool to smuggle illicit packages over their walls.

The new crime-fighting drones are equipped with heat-sensing and night-vision capable cameras. Additionally, they are able to detect when a prisoner ventures into a prohibited area which is often an indication of attempting to smuggle packages over prison fences during the night.

If the contracted drone pilots see anything suspicious – they will report it to the local prison guards. They may also  be able to detect the initial signs of prison riots and can notify guards to intervene. In April this year, a prison riot at one South Carolina prison resulted in the deaths of seven inmates.

Recent crime incidents involving UAVs at South Carolina prisons

* May 2017: Two men were arrested after attempting to smuggles knives, marijuana and phones into a medium-security state prison

* Last summer: An inmate escaped a maximum-security prison using wire cutters to slice through multiple fences. Prison officials believe a drone delivered the cutters.

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