Information-Sharing Increases Correctional Safety and Security

By Baker, Richard; Hingst, Rachel et al. | Corrections Today, June 2001 | Go to article overview

Information-Sharing Increases Correctional Safety and Security

Baker, Richard, Hingst, Rachel, Howard, James, Hoyt, John, Corrections Today

Editor's Note: Opinions or points of view expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the US. Department of Justice (DOJ). Listing of a product or a vendor does not constitute an endorsement of that product or vendor by the DOJ.

Technology's vital role of providing physical safety and security has been established by the needs of correctional officers, administrators and institutions -- especially during a time of escalating costs.

Extensive savings result when technology is integrated with existing systems and resources in order to address the unique operational requirements of a correctional environment. For example, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has demonstrated that the cost of transporting inmates for medical services can be greatly reduced by using telemedicine systems. New technologies for tracking and monitoring inmates within institutions and communities also have evolved and could offer more cost-effective means to address correctional administrators' needs.

The capacity of technology to permit seamless information-sharing among multiple users and systems also is being harnessed to benefit criminal justice agencies. The NIJ-sponsored information technology program, InfoTech, is one example.

InfoTech: Single-Step Global Access

InfoTech is demonstrating the impact and feasibility of sharing electronic data across jurisdictions and agencies. This program gives public safety agencies access to multiple data sources with a single Web-based query. InfoTech is being used in California, Florida and Oregon.

In Oregon, InfoTech enables critical information-sharing between the Department of Corrections, the state police laboratory, and the judicial department and youth authority. In Florida, InfoTech users perform a single query to obtain information from multiple jail and record management systems. State officials in Florida also have expressed interest in incorporating more than 50 of the state's jail management systems.

Cross-Institutional Information-Sharing

InfoTech allows correctional facilities and other agencies to easily share inmate profiles. As individuals pass through the system, resourceful information such as medical and behavioral histories and gang affiliations is collected. This information is valuable to other correctional institutions if the individual is reincarcerated. Sharing historical information about individuals is valuable in the classification process of newly incarcerated individuals. Such information-sharing also assists counselors in preparing cases for current inmates.

Since a uniform method for sharing inmates' historical information with subsequent institutions does not exist, any valuable information -- a history of violence or addiction, or special medical needs, etc. -- an institution learns has to be relearned by the next institution. Such information gaps may provide opportunities for violence since information does not transfer efficiently with inmates. InfoTech allows corrections officials to circumvent such information gaps. A single query into the system reveals an array of important information about current and past incarcerations.

Monitoring Court Dates and Release

Correctional employees are presented with another information tracking requirement when transporting inmates to court. Multiple inmates, with multiple charges, in multiple jurisdictions must be accurately processed for accurate hearing schedules. InfoTech allows officers to access current information on an inmate's hearing status via direct queries from the correctional facility to the court. Through such an exchange, agencies can track multiple inmates, release dates, charges and dispositions for all inmates at any given time. Correctional agencies also can track inmates serving time in other jurisdictions for separate offenses who are required to serve subsequent time in the agency's jurisdiction for another crime. …

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Information-Sharing Increases Correctional Safety and Security


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