Aussie prisoners to be tagged

The Alexander Maconochie Centre will employ real-time prisoner tracking via an RFID chip worn around the wrist or ankle

A new prison currently being built in Canberra is planning to trial an RFID tracking programme for its inmate population, despite growing concerns it will infringe on inmates’ civil rights.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC), which opens in 2008, will employ real-time prisoner tracking via an RFID chip worn around the wrist or ankle.

It will be the first prison in Australasia to use an RFID system, at an estimated cost of A$1.2 million (NZ$1.32 million). A spokesperson says the programme will act as a pilot for other Australian prisons.

The ICT project manager at the prison, Andreas Wullen, says the programme is designed to ease rehabilitation for inmates, which is why it is an open-plan prison. The tags will not be compulsory, as that would be a violation of ACT law.

Despite that, privacy and human rights groups have expressed alarm at the programme. Australian Privacy Foundation chair Roger Clarke says the organisation has a number of serious issues with the trial.

“This is worse than occasionally walking past security cameras. It has direct identification and is permanent day or night throughout the prison facility,” he says. The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, says her office will be discussing the issue with ACT Corrective Services.

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