No escape? Chinese VIP jail puts AI monitors in every cell ‘to make prison breaks impossible’ – South China Morning Post

What happened: Yancheng Prison, a facility housing inmates including government officials and foreigners in China’s northern Hebei province, is upgrading its surveillance system with an artificial intelligence network of cameras and hidden sensors. The new “smart jail” system is almost finished after months of construction, according to SCMP, citing sources involved in the project. The AI network is able to detect unusual behavioral patterns such as extended bouts of pacing and send alerts to the guards. AI functions including facial identification and movement analysis are used in daily reports generated for each inmate.

Why its important: Jointly developed by industry and academic organizations including Tianjin-based surveillance technology company Tiandy, the system is expected to provide blanket coverage extending into every cell, rendering prison breaks next to impossible. The company is also planning to sell the system to some South American countries for jails with histories of violence and security breaches. The use of technology to monitor prisoners prompted concern over negative effects on prisoners’ lives and mental state from one human behavior expert who also suggested that some prisoners may look find ways to exploit the AI’s weaknesses.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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