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    Update on D.C. Jails’ Plan to Fingerprint All Visitors

    In January, the Washington Examiner reported that Washington, D.C., prisons was set to implement a new plan concerning visitors: “All visitors to the District’s jail soon will have their fingerprints scanned and checked against law enforcement databases for outstanding warrants.” Now, NBC Washington and the Associated Press report that the District is pulling back on the plan:

    Department officials said the initiative, which was to have started this month, has been put on hold because of a “host of legal, financial and operational concerns that have been raised.” The department revealed the delay in a questionnaire submitted ahead of a performance oversight hearing Friday scheduled by the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee.

    The fingerprint proposal had raised concerns that it would be overly intrusive, though jail officials said they never planned to store the fingerprints and that it would be up to police to decide what to do if the prints turned up an outstanding warrant.

    Here’s the question and answer from the document (pdf) submitted to the DC Council’s Judiciary Committee:

    21. Starting in March 2011, DOC all visitors to the D.C. jail will have their fingerprints scanned and checked against law enforcement databases for outstanding warrants. What will DOC do with the fingerprints after the warrant checks are run? Will the fingerprints be stored in any way? For what purpose and for how long? As an attachment, please provide a copy of DOC’s policies regarding this new procedure.
    Response:
    The proposed system for checking fingerprints of D.C. Jail visitors to determine if they have outstanding arrest warrants will not be implemented in March 2011. DOC is re- evaluating this proposal because of a host of legal, financial and operational concerns that have been raised. Under the original proposal, there was never any intent to store visitor fingerprints. After completing a check, the transaction would be deleted.

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