South Korea Testing Out Robotic Prison Guards

By Carlton Purvis

Over the next month, South Korea’s prison service will engage in a trial testing the feasibility of robot wardens in its prisons. Developers say the robots will help reduce the workload of the guards.

The five-foot tall robots developed by the Asian Forum for Corrections (AFC) are equipped with facial sensors that the robots' developers say can “detect abnormal behavior among inmates, such as suicidal behavior and violence,” Yonhap News reported. The robots would then report the behavior to human supervisors.

AFC chairman and Kyonggi University criminal justice professor Lee Baik-chul said the robots will perform simple tasks, allowing guards to focus on other tasks.

“It’s at night when problems can occur. The robots, instead of human guards, will watch for any signs of suicide attempts or physical attacks on prisoners. This will allow the human guards to work on more difficult problems such as educational work and counseling,” the Korea Times quoted Lee as saying.

Lee said the robots are also equipped with a microphone and speakers to allow two-way communication between inmates and guards in a central control room.

A computer rendering being distributed by Lee shows an illustration of how the four-wheeled, smiling-faced robots sporting a corrections badge may look.

"As we're almost done with creating its key operating system, we are now working on refining its details to make it look more friendly to inmates," Yonhap quoted Lee as saying.

The cost of the one-month trial is estimated at one billion won ($866,000 USD). The robots could be in use as early as next year.

image from Lee Baik-chul


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