This story is over 5 years old.

Let's End Incarceration and Just Have Drones Supervise Criminals

Micro drones, robot guards, and tracking chips will turn convicts into tax-paying, law-abiding citizens.
Photo adapted from rawdonfox/Flickr

The US prison system costs almost four times more to run than the US education system. It doesn't matter what your politics are—virtually everyone thinks this is wrong. So what can we do about it?

As a transhumanist, I always look to science and technology to solve problems. The simple fact is that many criminals crowding our prisons—whether murders, drug dealers, or others—could be turned into law abiding, tax-paying citizens who live successfully amongst us. All they need is the proper supervision.


In the past, strict supervision like this has been impossible due to it being cost ineffective. There simply were not enough parole officers and police to monitor the plethora of criminals—approximately two million people are in US jails today. However, with new 21st century tech and tracking possibilities arriving, this may soon change.

Drones already cost less than $50 dollars. And using GPS directions, they'll soon be able to fly indefinitely based only on solar power and batteries. They will also soon be just the size of coins, like the Aerius made by Axis Drones. If every inmate was given a few tiny personal drones to follow them around, how much new crime do you think they would commit?

Generally speaking, criminals commit crimes when they think they can get away with it. So drones filming their every move and relaying images back to a sophisticated computer programmed to sense suspicious activity could majorly temper criminality.

Naturally, some felons would try to ditch their drones or smash them with a baseball bat

Of course, to be effective, a real person would have to be on the other end of the crime-alerting computer, ready night or day to enforce proper behavior of criminals.

Naturally, some felons would try to ditch their drones or smash them with a baseball bat. But since drones are becoming so cheap, perhaps we might always have a few spares hovering outside the house or wherever criminals go.


In fact, I would even advocate for every criminal having a full sized robot guard personally assigned to them. While there are some sizeable upfront costs to this, eventually able bodied robots will be able to be made affordably that can contain and apprehend criminals—and maybe even taser them in emergencies. In fact, South Korea has already implemented 5-foot robo-guards to help monitor criminals in their prisons.

If we add already existing interactive robot technology—where a live person, such a patrol officer, can see and hear through the robots' cameras and equipment—then we could control the robots as if they were our own bodies. These robot drones would indeed be a powerful force against crime without endangering the operator.

Of course, looking forward five years in the future, another sure way to keep an eye on criminals in the public is with tracking chip implants. Chip implants, which can already do various things in the body like test blood, would be useful in determining if a criminal was imbibing illegal drugs, which often leads to criminal behavior.

Criminal chip implants would help with another problem prisons typically generate. While incarcerated, felons group together, and obviously this isn't very helpful in rehabilitating criminal attitudes. But in the outside world, a condition of freedom for felons might be the direct order not to associate with other criminals. This would force felons to be surrounded by noncriminal types. Peer pressure is a powerful force, and the ability to successfully intermix in society and contribute to the national best interest might be better achieved this way.

It's safe to say these new ideas of governing criminals would be far cheaper than the hugely expensive US prison system. How great would it be to get a majority of the two million prisoners in America into the workforce and paying taxes again? In fact, with all that money earned (and saved), we could finally start to spend money building out this country's inadequate education system. We might even consider using the thousands of empty prisons around the country as part of a new national university system that offers free college education to anyone that wants it. By freeing prisoners, we could end up hiring thousands of new teachers.

Opportunities abound for prison reform, but it starts with a close look at how improving technology could lead to much less incarceration in the first place.