El Paso

Sheriff's Office unveils iris scanner for inmates

El Paso first in state to use technology

EL PASO - The Sheriff's Office, which books about 30 thousand people per year, describes I.R.I.S. as "a secure, nationwide network and registry" that takes a detailed digital photograph of both of the inmate's irises, which it then encrypts and stores along with arrest information for national use.

The use of irises can be captured more accurately than fingerprints, the program can accurately recognize offenders no matter where they were arrested or first entered the system in less than 20 seconds since each person has a unique iris.

The I.R.I.S. database includes photographs of the offender's irises and mug shots, as well as their criminal history, physical description, and demographic and lifestyle information, which includes distinguishing marks like tattoos.

Still, Sheriff Richard Wiles expects that it will take several years to build a database large enough for use consistent enough to become more widely used than fingerprints, which he expects will not fall out of use.

"We just reached a milestone this past week of over one million irises being enrolled," the president and CEO of Bi2 Techonologies Sean Mullin states.

According Sheriff Wiles, some offenders attempt to assume a new identity to avoid recognition and prosecution for their crimes, but with the use of I.R.I.S., sheriff's deputies will have the ability to confirm an offender's identity.

All people being booked by the Sheriff's Office will be enrolled in the system, as well as all sex offenders.

In reference to the abilities of I.R.I.S., Sheriff Wiles says, "Accurate and timely identification of offenders is a fundamental and critical responsibility of every law enforcement officer in the nation."

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