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Prison installations in Hong Kong will implement advanced video analytics technologies within the framework of the “smart prison” project – a move to modernize the city’s correctional facilities.

The prisons will install a new CCTV system with a video analytics function that could detect erratic and aggressive motions by prisoners, looking out for fights and suicide attempts, said Hong Kong’s Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu. When suspicious movement is detected, the system would send an alert to prison staff.

“If there is a fight in the canteen, the motion would be different from the quiet state, like in usual circumstances,” Lee added. “Experts gathered lots of data and input it into the system so that the computer can analyze [the captured motion]. The authorities can draw manpower instantly and intervene in a fight if notified about abnormal behavior.”

Prison officers currently monitor inmates via frequent patrols and by watching real-time CCTV footage. A government source said the upgraded surveillance system did not mean a “guard-free prison” – the new tool was meant to enhance prison management, not replace staff. “Correctional officers currently sit in front of the CCTV monitors and focus on every image. They will still be in the seat after the systems upgrade. But the super-computer would be more sensitive and could pick up abnormal events more quickly,” the source said, according to

The Correctional Services Department will conduct a trial in several night cells of Pik Uk Prison by end of this year. Lee said that the authorities had consulted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and added that the technology would not breach any privacy laws.

Singapore began a trial of a similar surveillance system at Changi Prison earlier this year. The human behavior detection system, called Avatar, also applies video analytics algorithms to inmate motion.

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