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NEC is supplying the Prison Service with biometric methadone dispensers in up to 100 prisons.

The machines will check prisoners' fingerprints or iris scans to access their medical record before dispensing the correct dose of methadone.

The five year contract is starting with 72 prisons and began in December 2007. The deal is actually with the Department of Health, which is getting Primary Care Trusts to install the machines in their local prisons.

Using the machines is not compulsory for prisoners requiring methadone but take-up, we're told, is high.

NEC general manager for enterprise solutions Richard Farnworth told the Reg: "The inmate on the scheme walks into the pharmacy and presents either his iris or fingerprint to the machine. The machine, not unlike a vending machine, dispenses the methadone into a paper cup, all overseen by a pharmacist.

"The machines are in about 15 prisons already and feedback is very positive. It reduces the ability for prisoners to trade doses by switching ID cards or prisoner numbers particularly in large prisons where there could be hundreds of prisoners."

The project is expected to cost £3.5m for 100 prisons.

The machines do not physically store images of biometric information, but use it to match codes to identify the individual. ®

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