Pinal County implements iris-recognition technology

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FLORENCE, Ariz. – The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office unveiled its newest weapon in the fight against crime Thursday – iris-recognition technology. Pinal County is the first law-enforcement agency in Arizona to implement the Inmate Recognition & Identification System (IRIS).

Chief Deputy Steve Henry showed Javier Soto how it works.

IRIS will be used to enroll and identify every inmate in the Pinal County Jail, which is a 1,500-bed facility. It will also be used to register, track and monitor the county’s more than 700 convicted sex offenders.

According to Henry, IRIS to log offenders at intake and release at the detention center, ensuring that no inmate is mistakenly released because of an ID or alias mistake. After that, the technology will be deployed in the field.

Armed with iPhones, deputies will be able to snap a picture of a person’s iris and the software will check a massive database and return that person’s criminal history. The whole process will take just seconds.

“[The digital camera] captures the unique features that are in your iris – the colored part around your pupil,” explained Steve Mullin of BI2 Technologies. “It then analyzes them against the database.”

The information will be shared not just among law-enforcement agencies throughout Arizona, but also with jurisdictions in other states. The system is already installed in 47 states.

The goal is to eventually have everyone who has a criminal history in the database.

“Like fingerprints, it takes a while to build the database,” Mullin said. “Pinal County is in an interesting position geographically within this drug cartel trade throughout Mexico and into the U.S. … Building the database here in Pinal has broad implications to the entire United States.”

Eventually, officers in the field will be able use their smartphones to take advantage of iris recognition software, fingerprint comparisons, and facial recognition technology.

According to statistics, more than 70 percent of offenders break the law again after they’re released from jail or prison. The IRIS system will make is nearly impossible for re-offenders to hide behind a false identity or alias.