Sharing Criminal Justice Information: Departments of Correction Face Challenge of Managing Information While Maintaining Integrity of Data

By Roesel, S. Fred | Corrections Today, July 1998 | Go to article overview

Sharing Criminal Justice Information: Departments of Correction Face Challenge of Managing Information While Maintaining Integrity of Data


Roesel, S. Fred, Corrections Today


One of the most significant and challenging issues facing the criminal justice community is the dissemination of information to colleagues and the broader community. Information is vital to the mission of the criminal justice system; however, due to geography, jurisdiction, political entities or technological differences, information on offenders often is unavailable to the criminal justice community, let alone to the public and victims.

The criminal justice community has seen an increase in citizen initiatives to expand the role of law enforcement and corrections as sharers of information on the inmates we manage. Now the question is not whether we share information, but how we in corrections manage the information in our possession while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the data and the system.

What is public information and what is not? How do we provide for the broadest possible dissemination of the former while restricting access to the latter? And how do we keep information from being destroyed or manipulated by those who have access to it? Law enforcement, courts and corrections on the local, state and federal levels expend untold hours and resources collecting information on criminals. The security of data systems and the accuracy of the information is vital to ensuring that the criminal justice community benefits from the data it collects.

Technology Profile

The Florida Department of Correction's (DC) information technology profile is based in four areas:

* Mainframe: The mainframe system contains more than one million records on current and prior inmates and community-supervised offenders accumulated since initiation of the database in 1982. This database serves more than 350 facilities, 10,000 terminals and 15,000 users throughout Florida.

* Local Area Networks (LAN): The department supports LAN systems in its headquarters office, five regional offices, 20 major institutions and multiple field parole and probation offices, with major expansion to all offices and facilities under way.

* Mini-Computers: A system of mini-computers installed at selected sites supports office automation functions as well as additional specialized applications.

* Web Site: The department's Web site has been operational since 1995, and significant strides in the development of Web applications within the past year have enabled the department to significantly expand its information-sharing capability.

Florida's criminal justice community relies on the accuracy and reliability of the department's data. This data accumulation, managed by thousands of staff, begins at initial intake into a reception center for inmates or a field probation office for community supervision and follows the offender throughout his or her incarceration or supervision period. Information developed during incarceration or community supervision includes:

* commitment history (incarceration and community supervision);

* identifying characteristics (scars, marks, tattoos);

* criminal history;

* movement history in and out of prison;

* gang affiliations with identifying information;

* behavioral information;

* gain time;

* program participation while in prison or under community supervision;

* family and other relationships recorded through automated visitation documents;

* disciplinary history; and

* information about an inmate's release or an offender's last-known residence.

Historically, access to this information was limited to those agencies willing and able to connect to the department's mainframe system through a dedicated line. This access relies on standard mainframe security access procedures, which include a user identification and password and a security access profile request for each individual user in the requesting agency. Included in this process is a requirement for users to attend a special training program to learn the structure and design of the database as well as the foundation of the data retrieved from the database. …

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Sharing Criminal Justice Information: Departments of Correction Face Challenge of Managing Information While Maintaining Integrity of Data
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