Close this search box.

Home Blog Criminal Investigations OSINT Detects Contraband in Prisons


OSINT Detects Contraband in Prisons

September 26, 2023

Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) Can Detect and Prevent Contraband in Prisons and Correctional Facilities

Utilizing AI-powered Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a critical and innovative approach to addressing the ever-increasing problem of contraband, violence, and gangs in correctional facilities.  One tool that can help stem the tide of this illicit activity is open-source intelligence, or OSINT.

The integration of AI- powered OSINT with internal resources brings a fundamental paradigm shift to corrections in reimagining how intelligence is gathered and utilized.  Traditionally, prisons have been viewed as places where information is closely guarded and restricted.  In this new paradigm, what was once thought of as the last stop in law enforcement, is now the first place that law enforcement agencies should leverage intelligence on all levels, including federal, state, and local, due to the historical amount of data collected.  This internal data, combined with AI-powered OSINT, gives investigators the ability to search and analyze sources and cross-correlate data at speeds that were previously unachievable.  This process dramatically shortens the intelligence cycle, turning data into immediate and actionable information that can provide insight on three operational levels – strategic, operational, and tactical.

Detecting Contraband Using OSINT

The continued proliferation of contraband cell phones allows inmates the ability to communicate and coordinate illegal activities and operations both inside and outside the prison. Each new evolution of cell phone includes new operating system encryption elements, encrypted apps, anonymous VOIP communication apps, increased connectivity, reduced sizes, and smaller batteries, all of which make it more difficult for administrators to mitigate through traditional Contraband Interdiction Systems (CIS) including hardening of the perimeter, managed access systems and digital forensics. Integrating OSINT into intelligence gathering can be additional element in detecting devices presence used by inmates to coordinate illicit activities in and out of the prison.

AI-powered OSINT also overcomes many of the limitations of Managed Access Systems and Mobile Assessment Programs including substantial initial costs, operating costs, area covered, and persistence.  What would have taken an agency weeks, if not months and at a substantial cost, can now be done in just a few hours.  Agencies are utilizing this new capability to analyze and then quickly remove contraband devices.  Additionally, it can also substantially increase the success of Designated Correctional Facility Officers (DCFO) utilizing the new FCC Termination of Service (TOS) order.  Finally, this unique ability acts as a validation tool to “see” the results of their methodologies.

Understand Illicit Networks Involved in Contraband Using OSINT

OSINT platforms, powered by AI, can search vast amounts of data, and present it in a usable format. An automated platform can ingest data from Offender Management Systems (OMS), digital forensics and other platforms.  This enables investigators to focus their efforts on identifying contraband networks involved, both inside and outside the corrections facility. Adding OSINT to correctional data can be a force multiplier when identifying networks that may be involved in illicit activity inside and outside of the facility.

Cell phones also enable inmates to access to the dark web , where illegal activities can be coordinated anonymously.  This digital aspect of contraband adds complexity to the challenge faced by correctional institutions.  AI-powered OSINT allows a safe space for correctional investigators to search the dark web, tying users and their activity together for swift action by correctional staff.

OSINT also helps analysts in understanding the complex relationships that inmates maintain, both inside and outside the prison.  This includes Security Threat Group (STG) affiliations, and even attempts to groom, recruit and compromise corrections officers or their friends. It can help paint a picture of an inmate’s full network that could be involved in nefarious activities tied to the facility itself.

OSINT Aids in Large Scale Investigations

An AI-powered OSINT intelligence platform provides persistent situational awareness for prison officials.  It helps in the analysis of groups and threat actors, monitors the dark web for new threats, and automates advanced search capabilities to identify illegal activities.

Traditional investigative methods to follow the illegal monetary proceeds earned by STG elements are again diminished with inmates using P2P money transfers and cryptocurrencies.  AI-Powered OSINT allows correctional investigators to follow the money in the form cryptocurrencies in this ever changing dynamic.

OSINT For Good in a Correctional Setting

On a national level, correctional agencies are grappling with critical staffing shortages, which hinder efforts to control contraband, combat gang activity and violence in prisons.  AI-powered OSINT can act as a staff multiplier, allowing officers to process and analyze large volumes of data quickly and persistently, even with limited staff. Using OSINT, correctional staff can ensure facilities are safe for staff, visitors and inmates, freeing up staff time to tackle issues involving mental health, familial separation and adjustments to incarceration.  This helps inmates as they transition in and out of prison, ensuring they can become productive members once their time has been served.

Mark Wasson

Mark Wasson has over 20 years of hands-on experience in all aspects of state and federal corrections. Mark began his career with the Kentucky Department of Corrections and served as a Corrections Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Classification and Treatment Officer, Probation and Parole Officer, Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT/CERT Regional Commander), Internal Affairs Lieutenant and Internal Affairs Branch Manager. Wasson also received a HERO Award and Officer of the Year while at the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Mark has since specialized in assisting multiple law enforcement agencies and their partners on a national level in building and training their intelligence, contraband interdiction, digital forensics, drone, and mobile assessment programs utilizing new technologies. Additionally, agencies placed an emphasis on tasking him with conducting complex and sensitive criminal and non-criminal investigations based on advanced intelligence analysis and applications.


corrections blog image

Request a Demo

Skip to content