Our members can access the article here, Reading the Bar Codes.
The author is comparing the state of the jails then and now. 200 years later, human conditions in the jails haven't changed all that much--technology has:
Many things have changed at Tihar since the 1980s, .... Now, the biometrics of every prisoner are logged on a computer, and a fingerprint reader can call up every detail including his photograph, the crime of which he is accused, and the number of times he has been visited.
Does that help so far?