Blockchain has found a new home, the prison industrial complex

3 mins read

Forget skew numbers, microchips and barcodes as monitoring systems. Now, governments and companies use cryptography, popularly known as blockchain, to trace everything from prisoners to potato chips.

Most people connect blockchain to cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. However, the record keeping data system resistant to modification is being implemented in ways far from its early intentions to decentralize currency.

Take for instance, in the city of Foshan, part of southern China’s Guangdong province, Beijing officials announced that they set up the first blockchain-based, community correction service system to track convicted offenders in real time.

Once prisoners are released, they are given electronic bracelets that they must wear during the duration of their parole. With the tracking encryption program, the system allows local police, prosecutors, and court officials to share their real-time data. As well, it coordinates services to conduct enhanced supervision of the offenders and allows government departments to collect proof of their employment efforts.

Beyond tracing every move of those in re-entry, blockchain encrypted bracelets oversee the behavior and activities of the offenders in case of any law violations. Moreover, it also calculates their personal credit scores to see how fast they can re-establish themselves in general society.

According to Chinese authorities, the data will be kept for three years after the offenders leave the correction system for timely updates on their follow-up lives.

Prison Industrial Complex of the West

On the other side of the Pacific ocean, the US prison system prepares to use blockchain to watch how prisoners use their commissary.

Instead of relying on barcodes to trace food items and toiletries purchased, a kiosk will be set up where all products that individuals acquire are individually marked with its own traceable code through a digital token. In turn, each prisoner will have a customized digital stamp that follows them on every transaction. As well, the blockchain monitors their physical movement.

For a long time, commissary items have been used as a system of barter in detention centers. But, Cell Blocks, a new startup, plans to digitize the economy of large scale prison systems to eliminate the underground black market with blockchain. Cell block describes the service that they offer as:

“ . . . an effective alternative to a slow financial network and reduce violence associated with inmate to inmate transfers.  State and Federal inmates need a swift, efficient, and secure barter system through the use of digital tokens.  With Cell Blocks, inmates will be able to send and receive digital tokens through virtual “wallets” in real time.”

The age of crypto

Tracking of data has and will continue to change our lives. People may be surprised, but driver licenses, passports, and social security numbers are dinosaurs of the technology new age that will replace it. Right now, at the center sits cryptography.

In the case of currency, while cash gave us some anonymity, checks started to leave more documentation of our purchases and locations. When credit cards came along, it served as a sort of bird in the sky like in Will Smith’s “Enemy of the State,” where at any moment of your swipe, a satellite can point to your location. Now with cryptocurrency, there is no such thing as personal or private transactions. Simply put, the tracking of currency is a sign of what’s to come from prison cell to apartment unit.

Blockchain is a more evolved network of information that is steadily reconciled into a database which is stored in multiple locations and updated instantly. Crypto geeks has a good analogy to describe how blockchain works: “Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers.  Then imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of how blockchain works.”

As the world uploads to blockchain, all visual, mathematical and intellectual property will be monitored and dissected in real time.  Big brother 5.0 is now in a brave new world, as in Aldous Huxley’s book. Can we say that Huxley’s dreams manifest before our eyes? Don’t believe me, just check out Huxley’s book in a new upcoming TV series starring Demi Moore.

Duane Reed researches currency and market investments; and dibble dabbles in news.

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