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Joe Arpaio's Jails Now a Little Harder to Escape: Fingerprints Required for Release

Alcatraz was a little harder to escape than Arpaio's joints, history tells us.
Alcatraz was a little harder to escape than Arpaio's joints, history tells us.
Joseph Kranak via Flickr

One proven method of escaping Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails has been corrected.

At least one inmate proved that all you need is to switch wristbands with someone who is supposed to be released, pretend you're that person, and walk out the door, but it looks like that might not work anymore.

See also:
-Rocky Marquez Arrested in Mexico, After Second Jail Escape

The difficult part of that plan, of course, is that you need to convince someone that they should stay in jail, rather than taste freedom.

That won't work any longer, unless the inmate also brings the person's index finger with them.

According to a press release from a company called MorphoTrak, Inc., a "biometric identity management company," Maricopa County has purchased one of its products, BIOGUARD, to be used in Arpaio's jails.

With BIOGUARD, the offender intake procedure includes capturing two of the individual's fingerprints (usually the index fingers) on an optical fingerprint capture device from MorphoTrak and entering them into a database. Later, when the individual is released, the fingerprints are again checked. The fingerprint reader scans the finger, and within less than one second, the system determines if the person is who he says he is. If the prints match, the system displays a photograph of the inmate for a visual confirmation of identity.

This became an issue in May 2012, when an inmate named Rocky Marquez was able to walk out of the Lower Buckeye Jail, who was supposed to remain in jail until his trial on charges of perjury, forgery, witness tampering, DUI, misconduct involving weapons, and leaving the scene of an accident.

Marquez switched ID wristbands with another inmate, and while the wristbands have pictures, it's kind of hard to tell exactly whose picture it is, since it's small enough to fit on a wristband.

Marquez somehow convinced the inmate to switch identities with him, even though the other inmate had his bond posted and was all set to walk out the door himself -- legally.

MCSO's security measures for the wristband system included having an inmate give a detention officer some random, personal information to prove they are who they say.

That system apparently didn't work too well, as Marquez was able to get out. Marquez proceeded to make many people's lives a lot more difficult.

The U.S. Marshals Service was again hunting for one of Arpaio's inmates, and tracked him down near Detroit in January.

While in the Wayne County, Michigan jail, waiting to be extradited back to Maricopa County, Marquez pulled the same gag on those detention officers, and walked out the door of that jail, too.

Thanks to Marquez, there's now a fingerprint-ID system in the jails.

This will undoubtedly lead to a decrease in ID switching, or an increase in index fingers being chopped off in Arpaio's jails.

The press release from MorphoTrak says Maricopa County has the first county-wide system with this product, but it's certainly not this company's first fingerprint-collecting rodeo. From the press release:

MorphoTrak, Inc., a subsidiary of Safran USA, provides biometric and identity management solutions to a broad array of markets in the U.S. including law enforcement, border control, driver licenses, civil identification, and facility/IT security. Reporting to Morpho, Safran's security division, MorphoTrak is part of the world's largest biometric company. Morpho is a leading innovator in large fingerprint identification systems, facial and iris recognition, as well as rapid DNA identification and secure credentials. With over 36 years' experience, Morpho has captured more than 3 billion fingerprints and Morpho products are used by more than 450 government agencies in over 100 countries. MorphoTrak is headquartered near Washington D.C., with major corporate facilities in Anaheim, CA and Federal Way, WA.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.


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