Ohio Contemplates Using Drones to Enhance Prison Security

DAYTON, Ohio — Ohio may become the first state to use drones as an additional means of security in its state prisons, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC).

The state corrections agency is currently considering the use of drones in two Ohio prisons: Lebanon Correctional Institution and Warren Correctional Institution, both located in southwest Ohio. The drones come in three camera-carrying options: a tethered helium balloon, a quad-copter and a fixed-wing vehicle.

The agency will take public comments through Aug. 9 in regard to the proposal of using unmanned aerial vehicles at the two prisons, reported the Plain Dealer. The public can reach the ODRC via email at DRC.UAS@odrc.state.oh.us or by calling 513-932-1211, extension 2121.

If public response is positive, then the ODRC would begin testing the technology as early as August or September. That beta-testing process would take about six months, Ed Voorhies, the agency’s operations managing director, told the Plain Dealer. However, the state has yet to look at how much a drone program might cost.

The drones would monitor prison yards and fences. They would enhance existing security as opposed to replacing guards, Voorhies said. The cameras may be equipped with infrared sensors to detect people outside the fences approaching at night to throw over contraband such as tobacco, drugs or even weapons, he added.

The state will need policies for using the technology, Gary Daniels, with the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Associated Press. He said that while there is little expectation of privacy on prison property, there is a potential for misuse if the cameras are used beyond the prison perimeter.