The Internet of Criminal Justice

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The American research institute RAND has published a research according to which internet-based technologies could aid criminal justice agencies and law enforcement in general in the future. “The criminal justice field has mostly been reactive to new technology developments such as smart phones and social media,” said John S. Hollywood, lead author of the report and a senior operations researcher atRAND.

The RAND report is based upon feedback from an expert panel of sixteen practitioners and technology experts convened to discuss what upcoming Internet technologies may be valuable and what the technology likely will do for criminal justice efforts.The report outlines an array of scenarios in which Web-enabled technology may aid those in the criminal justice system. For example, in the future, police officers may be able to gesture at a self-driving car to bring it to a stop or move a self-driving vehicle that blocks a fire hydrant. “Just how will an officer signal instructions to self-driving cars, such as when officers are controlling traffic at intersections?” Hollywood said. “This and many other questions about law enforcement and driverless vehicles need to be addressed.”

Another priority identified by the panel was the creation of a criminal record that integrates information from multiple agencies. “Criminal records today are incomplete and the records we do have are generally based locally,” Hollywood said. “What we need is an ability to get information about a person’s criminal history quickly and reliably, even when they move across city or state lines.”

Other specific law enforcement priorities include biometric sensors that police or correction officers could wear to monitor heartbeat and other vital signs, automatically calling for help if monitoring suggests an officer has been injured or is having a heart attack.

Another use of this technology in crimincal justice is to implement it into the court system, to delay delays during trial. For example, witnesses could video testify without having to be in court, or the whole trial could be conducted in such a manner.

However, experts are not forgetting the various consequences of these future technological innovations. The technologies envisioned raise issues related to both civil and privacy rights. Standards must be agreed upon that enable use of the technologies, while also assuring that they are safe from cyber attacks and are not used inappropriately, such as to monitor lawful activities.

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