Magazine article Corrections Forum

Crack Trackers

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Crack Trackers

Article excerpt

It's one of a correctional supervisor's top priorities-if not his top priority: to know where each offender is at any, and every, given time. But with budget cutbacks, staffing shortages and overwhelming parole and probation caseloads, correctional administrators grapple with ordinary tasks such as transport issues, medication delivery, even the ability to quickly do head counts.

Numerous liability issues crop up in a correctional facility-from suicide watch cases to personal injury and rape-and cases can be solved easier if everyone's actions are date and time stamped. Tracking systems "cross your t's and dot your i's, "says Glenn Lite, sales manager with PatrolScan, a division of Facilities Control Technology in Ambler, Pennsylvania, which has tracking installations worldwide. Cutting across a wide range of industries, its installations span correctional facilities such as Browns County Sheriffs Department in Green Bay, Wisconsin, courthouses, hospitals, even office buildings like Trump Towers in New York City.

Automated tracking systems help protect employees, offenders, and accusations against management. Lite recalls an incident in which a female prisoner accused a guard of rape. The system, however, showed he was on the other side of the facility at the time of the reported crime. It proved his innocence, says Lite, and she later confessed to fabricating the story. Having the system in place, "saved a lot of money and publicity, "maintains Lite.

The technology

In contrast to other guard tour systems, PatrolScan does not use bar code technology. Rather it is based on an "i button," or a touch memory data chip the size of a dime that can scan the location of an officer with a time/date stamp.

Chips are located throughout the facility and security personnel carry their own incident rings that are encoded with any type of preprogrammed information the warden or director specifies. For example, an incident ring could register vandalism, a flood, a fight, etc., at a location. Using a touch probe that weighs about eight ounces instead of the heavy clocks guards typically carry, the officer can take readings of head counts, suicide watches, etc. At the end of the round, the supervisor can use the touch probe to interface with his computer and print out status reports.

As for costs, Lite claims a facility can quickly recoup its costs though insurance premium savings. Safety checks can be performed with the system. By proving with the automated system that fire extinguishers and sprinklers are periodically checked, an insurance company may rebate your premiums 10% to 15%. With a large policy, it's possible | that a system pays for itself in one year, Lite says.

Tracking systems have myriad uses. In fact, anything that's a valuable asset can be tracked. NovaVision specializes in making bar code labels, serial number labels and holograms. A full service provider, the Bowling Green, Ohio-based company markets thermal printers, printer software to create custom labels inhouse, as well as preprinted custom and stock labels. It also makes paper or synthetic film labels, for indoor and outdoor use, as well as a laminated option to make the label impervious to tampering.

The most obvious application for bar codes is tracking offenders by a wristband. Bar codes can also be used by probation and parole officers to track large, unwieldy case files, with original documents inside. Tracking physical assets in inventory control with optional software is another huge application. Asset tags may be attached to basic items such as tables or chairs, or more crucial equipment, such as tools, hardware or evidence.

Nova Vision also has a wireless version available. While it has not yet installed its wireless application in correctional facilities, the company's ID cards are currently used by hospital staff to wirelessly, and transparently, track updated locations of health care professionals in a hospital, according to Mike Messmer, VP and general manager. …

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