SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.12 número4Estudio de casos y controles sobre factores de riesgo de diabetes mellitus tipo 2 en adultos mayoresEvaluación de vitroplantas de caña de azúcar, recomendaciones para su manejo agronómico índice de autoresíndice de materiabúsqueda de artículos
Home Pagelista alfabética de revistas  

Servicios Personalizados




  • No hay articulos citadosCitado por SciELO

Links relacionados

  • No hay articulos similaresSimilares en SciELO


Revista Universidad y Sociedad

versión On-line ISSN 2218-3620

Universidad y Sociedad vol.12 no.4 Cienfuegos jul.-ago. 2020  Epub 02-Ago-2020


Artículo Original

Security of penal institutions: content and technology

Seguridad de las instituciones penales: contenido y tecnología

Stanislav Stanislavovich Epifanov1  *

Alexander Nokolaevich Zhuravlev1

Nikolai Stepanovich Vechkaev1

Rustam Ruslanovich Sherkhov1

Aleksey Sergeevich Sinelnikov1

1 Federal Penitentiary Service Academy. Russian Federation


The purpose of the study is to specify the problem of security in penal institutions, taking into account the improvement tendencies and technology development in the conditions of scientific and technological progress. The interdisciplinary approach has been used to formulate the conclusions, generalizations of theoretical and applied nature, which determine the content and development of security activities in the field of criminal punishment. New results in the implementation of complex and systematic approaches to the problem of improving and developing security methods and technologies in penal institutions have been obtained, which determine the prospects for the further study. The assessment of the reliability of the research results has revealed that the idea is based on the analysis of theory and practice, generalization of best practices in implementing methods and technologies for the security of penal institutions, the results of studying normative legal acts and guidelines in the field of security of penal institutions. The author's data, obtained in the course of his own empirical research, as well as the previously published scientific publications, have been used. There is a certain confirmation of the author's results, obtained by the available data and containing independent sources that deal with the problem which is under consideration.

Keywords: Security; penal institutions; security of penal institutions; security technologies; security tools for penal institutions


El objetivo del estudio es especificar el problema de seguridad en las instituciones penales, teniendo en cuenta las tendencias de mejora y el desarrollo tecnológico en las condiciones de progreso científico y tecnológico. El enfoque interdisciplinario se ha utilizado para formular las conclusiones, generalizaciones de naturaleza teórica y aplicada, que determinan el contenido y el desarrollo de las actividades de seguridad en el campo de la sanción penal. Se han obtenido nuevos resultados en la implementación de enfoques complejos y sistemáticos al problema de mejorar y desarrollar métodos y tecnologías de seguridad en las instituciones penales, que determinan las perspectivas para el estudio posterior. La evaluación de la fiabilidad de los resultados de la investigación ha revelado que la idea se basa en el análisis de la teoría y la práctica, la generalización de las mejores prácticas en la implementación de métodos y tecnologías para la seguridad de las instituciones penales, los resultados del estudio de los actos jurídicos normativos y las directrices en El campo de la seguridad de las instituciones penales. Se han utilizado los datos del autor, obtenidos en el curso de su propia investigación empírica, así como las publicaciones científicas previamente publicadas. Hay una cierta confirmación de los resultados del autor, obtenida por los datos disponibles y que contiene fuentes independientes que tratan el problema que se está considerando.

Palabras clave: Seguridad; instituciones penales; seguridad de las instituciones penales; tecnologías de seguridad; herramientas de seguridad para instituciones penales


Ensuring security in penal institutions is an important task of the internal policy of any democratic state, since a significant number of people, committed the crimes, are kept in them. At the beginning of 2020, 523928 people were kept in penal institutions in Russia (Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, 2020), which was approximately 0.4 percent of the country's population. For comparison, one percent (2.4 million people) of the country's population in the United States are kept in various places of detention (jails, prisons) every year (Monahan & Skeem, 2016). In 2018, 2 million people were imprisoned in the United States, with an average of 693 people imprisoned for every 100,000 Americans (Todd, 2019). Despite the tendency to reduce the number of imprisoned people, mass imprisonment is still a great state problem nowadays (Todd, 2019).

It is obvious that in any law-governed state, the security of the penal system must be ensured by methods, means and technologies that are regulated by international law and national legislation. The rule of law is the main principle of ensuring security in penal institutions.

However, penitentiaries are a complex social system. Moreover, this system does not often achieve the goal of correcting convicts and committing new crimes. In some cases, penal institutions cannot ensure respect for human life and dignity (Drake, 2018) among people serving sentences in penal institutions, alternative anti-legal methods of maintaining internal order among convicts are often used, due to the criminal subculture. At the same time, convicts experience a constant sense of anxiety for their personal safety. In many cases, convicts choose ways to ensure their safety, which are imposed by the criminal subculture. Often, the methods and customs of the criminal environment are deliberately opposed to legal security methods. Anti-social views of convicts, contradictions between the informal system and the official system lead to excesses, violence in penal institutions, and create a threat to security.

Problems in preventing the delivery of prohibited items to penitentiaries, including mobile communications, informatization and unauthorized use of Internet resources by convicts, pose a new security problem. It is related to the fact that the Internet often becomes a medium for spreading terrorist ideology, promoting violent extremism, and involving people in terrorist organizations through social networks (Alava, Frau-Meigs & Hassan, 2017). In penal institutions, it is necessary to take measures to neutralize such a negative impact on prisoners and to exclude the possibility of spreading extremism. At the same time, the security of penal institutions requires scientific and practical understanding not only on a local, but also on a global anti-terrorist scale, taking into account the likelihood of external threats, terrorist attacks and their consequences. In the context of international terrorism, the system of international criminal law and justice needs to be improved (Mégret, 2018).

Taking into account the relevance of the problem, the purpose of the study is to clarify the essence and content of security activities in penal institutions, highlight the conditions, principles and technologies for implementing this specific activity in modern conditions, considering internal and external factors that affect the system of sentence execution.

The methodology of the research is characterized by the fact that it includes a dialectical method of scientific knowledge of social phenomena and the resulting general scientific and private scientific methods of research on the problem of security in penal institutions. The induction methods, analysis and synthesis, observation, statistical method have been used during the research to get most of the stated positions and conclusions on the matter. The analysis of empirical material, content analysis of legal acts and guidance documents, the study of legal and specialized literature, and positive experience in the practice of penal institutions have been carried out in the study.


By its semantic meaning, security is a state of safety, the absence of any danger or threats. The security of penal institutions has a protective orientation. Respect for and protection of human rights is another basic principle of prison security, which requires a legal declaration and daily implementation and monitoring.

In a narrow sense, security means ensuring the normal activities of prison staff and protecting the rights and interests of prisoners. The factors that affect penal institutions from outside (natural, man-made, biogenic, criminal) should be taken into account, as well as other unfavorable factors within the institution.

The essence of ensuring security in penal institutions is to prevent the emergency of various threats and their timely neutralization. In this sense, activities to ensure the security of penal institutions (residential, industrial, domestic, medical, security) directly or indirectly protect the human right to be protected from any threats of a criminal, natural, man-made or other nature. The principle of priority of taking preventive measures in order to prevent threats should be based on the functioning of the security system of penal institutions.

By systematically strengthening the rule of law in prisons, and by ensuring compliance with and enforcement of legal requirements, it is possible to increase the level of protection against the danger of illegal actions that could create a security risk. However, with an ideal law and order (the highest degree of compliance with the law), security threats in prisons can arise by chance. For example, because of the unpredictability of the behavior of convicts (mental disorders, personality degradation, drug addiction). Natural threats (floods, inundations, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters) are random. Dangers and threats can also arise due to carelessness (thoughtlessness, negligence), for example, violations of the rules of operation of technical means. It is impossible to exclude the possibility of man-made threats, for example, as a result of accidents at production facilities in the centers of labor adaptation of convicts. They can negatively affect the normal functioning of penitentiary institutions, cause damage to people's health, and lead to loss of life. In this case, the correct implementation of legal norms and technical standards is required to prevent or eliminate a crisis.

Thus, the state of personal protection in prisons depends on a system of legal, organizational and technical measures capable of preventing the occurrence of threats to the security of an individual, and in the event of such a danger, timely eliminating threats and protecting a person from danger. The content of security activities includes a set of measures for forecasting, identifying, analyzing and evaluating security threats, the introduction of scientific and technical means and technologies in the field of security.

The security system in penal institutions ensures the implementation of special preventive measures: internal and external. External measures and the means used to ensure them in penitentiary institutions are aimed at preventing escapes, as well as any illegal influences from outside, from the outside of the territory of penitentiary institutions. Internal measures are aimed at creating conditions that prevent the Commission of crimes and other offences within penal institutions. The considered crime prevention activities require adequate resources (United Nations, 2006).

The technology of functioning of the integrated security system is implemented in the basis of technical security of penal institutions. This technology involves a combination of a single system of engineering and technical means of protection, supervision, electronic control of the behavior of prisoners, access control, monitoring of objects in penal institutions.

The process of introducing new equipment for penal institutions is associated with the development of intelligent analytical technologies, the use of ergonomic devices for detecting, recording and processing digital information. At the same time, the level of security of penal institutions depends on increasing the reliability of engineering structures (fences, fences) around the perimeter and on the territory of penal institutions, which exclude the possibility of escapes. It is necessary to focus on the predominance of non-lethal physical impact systems in the protection of penal institutions against violators during riots and escapes.

To detect criminal actions and prevent crime it is required to increase the quantity and quality of video surveillance systems with the transfer of information to surveillance points and a situational center. Modern technologies for searches and inspections are aimed at using safe x-ray equipment, devices for detecting drugs, mobile phones and other prohibited items.

Security technologies involve recording all events related to the stay of a convicted person in a penal institution: access to premises, on the territory, visits, visits to various parts of the institution, receiving parcels, and other actions. This requires the integrated use of video cameras, as well as attribute systems (electronic cards, bracelets) and biometric systems, including those based on the analysis of fingerprints (Zinoun, 2018), palms, hand shape, iris, face oval, and other unique features of a person. A promising and actively developing area is the introduction of artificial intelligence systems, neural network technologies for predicting the risks of escape and other offenses, early recognition of inappropriate actions of convicts (systems for recording and determining the level of aggressiveness, intensity of conversations of convicts). Scientific developments of technical recognition systems for nonverbal communication signals are of great interest in order to control the intentions of convicts and identify indicators of aggressive behavior (Ponce-López et al., 2015). It is advisable to take into account the results of scientific research in the field of mathematical modeling of the probability of reoffending when developing programs of preventive impact on convicts (Bresson, Lacroix & Rahman, 2020).

At the same time, technical support in penal institutions should also be aimed at providing convicts with the opportunity to exercise some of their rights using information and telecommunication technologies. Practice has shown the effectiveness of the technologies that make it possible to organize the operation of "free speech room" on the territory of penal institutions, as well as computer portals (terminals) for information services for convicts.

"Free speech room" is a small isolated room equipped with a video camera with the possibility of video and audio recording of personal appeals of convicts to the administration. The video recording of the appeal is sent directly to the head of the institution to resolve the problems that arise, applications, and review the proposals of convicts.

More advanced technology implies the introduction of computer terminals, which allows convicts (prisoners) to obtain the necessary legal and reference information related to the punishment. Special programs are used that allow prisoners to ask questions directly to the administration of the penitentiary institution and individual employees of the administration via a computer terminal. The program works in on-line mode on the principle of "question-answer". Using a computer terminal with a touch screen installed, for example, in the library or canteen of a penal institution, the convict gets electronic access to his "personal account" by entering his password. Next, a program window appears on the screen, in which he selects the recipient of the message (the Manager or employee of the correctional institution), types the text of the question and presses the send button. The convict's question is sent directly to the institution employee's computer by means of the local network for an answer. A convicted person can receive an answer about their rights and obligations, the procedure and conditions of serving their sentence almost immediately or within a certain time, depending on the speed of sending the response.

In practice, information systems are being implemented to automate the processes of forming orders for goods and services for convicts. Funds are deposited to the convict's account via a multimedia terminal located in the penitentiary institution. In the online electronic store for the convicted person, you can order any product that is available in the warehouse of the institution and pay for the purchase through the terminal. With this technology, relatives of convicts can form orders, both through the terminal and via the Internet. The system provides a complete list of products, from which the necessary ones are selected. Each convict can get electronic access to their "personal account", which shows the status of their account and orders placed in the interactive store. Convicts get the opportunity to find out about the state of their personal account and place orders for the necessary goods electronically when taking a walk.

The right of convicts sentenced to deprivation of liberty to telephone calls is provided not only by traditional telephone communications, but also by video communication technology with the possibility of mutual video image of subscribers (the convict and his relatives) carrying out a telephone conversation, in real time (video date). This allows prisoners to maintain the necessary social ties that positively affect the need for law-abiding behavior. These examples of the implementation of individual rights of convicts through the introduction of computer technologies prove that the technical support in penitentiary institutions is aimed not only at the implementation of coercive measures, but also creates the necessary technical conditions for the implementation of their legal rights and interests, which has a positive impact on security in penitentiary institutions.


The development of penal institutions involves the introduction of modern security tools and technologies that take into account the achievements of scientific and technological progress. The functioning of the security system must guarantee that it will prevent from new crimes committing by imprisoned people (due to technical solutions, isolation, protection, and supervision of the behavior of convicts). It is necessary to create such conditions that exclude the physical possibility of escape and other crimes committed by convicts. The most important task of the security system is to ensure the collection and recording of the information, based on which it is possible to prevent offenses in a timely manner, to document the facts of illegal actions in penal institutions. At the same time, the integrated security system should use technologies of non-lethal impact on offenders, which allow using certain types of engineering, technical and special means to prevent escapes from protection, mass riots of convicts, and other emergencies in penal institutions.

The technology of the integrated security system ensures the transfer of video information and other data to the situation centers. Taking into account the development of modern technologies, information and analytical support is required for decision-making on the security of penal institutions, especially when dealing with criminal emergencies. In a crisis center, information describing an emergency or situation is collected, processed, and displayed, and a visual (animated) model of it is created. The use of expert computer systems allows you to generate possible solutions aimed at preventing the growth of the crisis, its elimination. At the same time, the information-computer model for the development of an emergency or situation should be built in real time based on relevant and reliable information continuously coming from the scene. It is important to create and maintain a database containing information on similar, previously encountered problems and typical algorithms for solving them.

Monitoring the health status of the security system consists in monitoring the operation process, measuring parameters, as well as the duration of trouble-free operation (reliability) of engineering, technical, special, and forensic equipment. The tracking process uses a combination of observation and measurement methods. Monitoring is a systematic tracking of the value of set parameters that characterize the state of operability of technical means, as well as the entire object equipped with a set of these means. Monitoring of equipment is carried out in order to study the process of functioning of the security system, monitor the performance of equipment functions assigned to it, and prevent equipment failure.

Due to the possible terrorist threats it is necessary to study and implement in practice the conceptual, theoretical and applied foundations of anti-terrorist activities and the security of penal institutions using the methods aimed at strengthening the protection of territories and facilities of penal institutions, identifying external and internal sources (threats) of terrorist danger and criminal attacks.

Bibliographic references

Alava, S., Frau-Meigs, D., & Hassan, G. (2017).Youth and violent extremism on social media: mapping the research. UNESCO Publishing. [ Links ]

Bresson, G., Lacroix, G., & Rahman, M. A. (2020). Bayesian panel quantile regression for binary outcomes with correlated random effects: An application on crime recidivism in Canada. IZA DP, 12928. [ Links ]

Drake, D. H. (2018). Prisons and state building: Promoting 'the fiasco of the prison' in a global context. International journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 7(4), 1-15. [ Links ]

Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia. (2020). Official website. http://xn--h1akkl.xn--p1ai/Links ]

Mégret, F. (2018). International Criminal Justice as a Peace Project.European Journal of International Law , 29(3), 835-858. [ Links ]

Monahan, J., & Skeem, J. L. (2016). Risk assessment in criminal sentencing.Annual Review of Clinical Psychology , 12, 489-513. [ Links ]

Ponce-López, V., Escalera, S., Pérez, M., Janés, O., & Baró, X. (2015). Non-verbal communication analysis in Victim-Offender Mediations.Pattern Recognition Letters,67, 19-27. [ Links ]

Todd, T. A. (2019). Mass Incarceration: The Obstruction of Judges.Law & Contemp. Probs. , 82, 191. [ Links ]

United Nations. (2006). Compendium of standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice. ]

Zinoun, F. (2018). Can a Fingerprint be Modelled by a Differential Equation? ]

Received: April 08, 2020; Accepted: May 21, 2020

*Autor para correspondencia. E-mail:

Los autores declaran no tener conflictos de intereses

Los autores han participado en la redacción del trabajo y análisis de los documentos

Creative Commons License This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License