Business intelligence helps the District of Columbia better manage parolees and those who watch them<@VM>Sidebar | Building D.C.'s data warehouse
- By Rutrell Yasin
- Sep 21, 2007
MANAGING BETTER: 'We can make sure that caseloads are evenly balanced and people are compensated,' said Paul Quander, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency director.
GCN photo by Rick Steele
Metrics can be tricky sometimes. Take, for instance, the number of home visits made to parolees by case officers.
Naturally, the District of Columbia office of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) wanted its community service officers to conduct as many such parolee visits as feasible. And officers were conducting the necessary number of visits.
But it is also necessary to visit the right parolees ' namely, those most likely to run afoul of the law again.
It was only after the agency installed its new case management Web portal that officials noticed that perhaps the officers were not getting to these people as much as they should. A disproportionate number of these accountability visits were being conducted with offenders who posed minimum risks.
'Why's that?' asked Paul Quander, CSOSA director. His team discovered that the staff liked visiting with the minimum-security risks because they don't cause problems. Because of an investment in business intelligence software, managers spotted the weakness in coverage and now can make sure officers are supervising and monitoring higher-risk offenders. The system gives them more verification and policy control capabilities.
If you are responsible for monitoring and supervising more than 20,000 ex-offenders, ensuring that they have the proper services and intervention programs to prevent them from being a consistent drain on the criminal justice system, you need pertinent information to make informed, intelligent decisions.
'Sometimes, it's what we don't know that's going to kill us,' Quander, a former trial lawyer, said. 'The more I know, the better prepared the agency will be to address those issues upfront.'
The agency is responsible for supervising men and women in Washington who are on release status to the court system or the federal Parole Commission.
'So one of the things we had to do was to develop an information system that would allow us to gather and manage information and to have data available to evaluate and make informed decisions,' he said.
And the applicability of this approach goes beyond criminal justice. The CSOSA approach holds lessons for all agencies that are managing complex sets of data, especially those who are managing the data less than efficiently.
The Supervision and Management Automated Record Tracking (SMART) case management system is the backbone of the agency, Quander said. The system, which is essentially an electronic data warehouse, lets CSOSA officials capture information from disparate systems. They can easily and quickly access data on how many people are under supervision, how well they are doing and how many are on parole, probation or warrant status.
This is the type of information 'managers need to know to manage day-to-day operations and to respond to citizens, Congress and others who want to know how their money is being spent,' Quander said.
Although the agency is responsible for offenders in Washington, CSOSA is a federal agency. Legislation enacted in 1997 combined functions that were performed locally in the district ' parole, probation, supervision and pretrial services ' under one federal umbrella for financial-support reasons, Quander said.
Pre-Trial Services is an independent agency under this umbrella but performs a function consistent with the overall goals of CSOSA, which is to reduce recidivism, protect the public, promote the administration of justice and enhance public safety, he said.
CSOSA became a certified federal agency in 2000. Quander took the reins five years ago. He has moved to develop a strategy with other agency officials to lighten the community service officers' caseloads, move the CSOs to branch offices so they could supervise offenders in the communities where they live and help develop the case management system.
SMART was launched early in 2002 and has gone through several enhancements and iterations that eventually led to the development of the agency's enterprise data warehouse, which is based on the SAS 9 platform, officials said. SAS 9 combines disparate data integration, business intelligence and basic analytical tools from various vendors, including Business Objects, Microsoft and SAS.
'We built the latest version of the release on [Microsoft] .NET, which is a scalable foundation and is extensible to a service-oriented architecture,' said William Kirkendale, CSOSA's chief information officer. This will enable CSOSA to communicate more effectively with partners that provide intervention programs and the court system, he said.
The agency recently implemented the SMART-STAT portal component, which will let agency executives and branch managers more effectively evaluate CSOs' success rates and get a better sense of where to spend money and put resources.
CSOSA's data warehouse project is modeled on successful criminal justice statistical analytic programs, such as New York City's COMPSTAT and Baltimore's CITISTAT.Nuts and bolts
SMART-STAT can evaluate which treatment and intervention methods work best for specific offenders. Managers can review successful and unsuccessful cases, so they can build best practices to reduce recidivism.
A CSO can better determine when to make a home visit or how often to recommend a drug test, check a current address or employment status. Branch chiefs can see how many successful, delinquent or closed cases each CSO has and see all the details associated with those cases.
CSOSA leaders can drill down to the individual officer level and see what measures were or were not taken when an outcome was unsuccessful.
SMART-STAT pulls together this level of detailed information through advanced SAS analytic capabilities, including SAS STAT, ETS, Enterprise Miner and Text Miner.
'This will allow us to get into the nuts and bolts of the operation,' Quander said. 'It will also allow us to take a look from the highest level of the agency to raw numbers all the way down to the individual cases or offender where we can pull the offender's case, look at some of the information there, follow up and see what progress has been made and see where some of the shortcomings [are].'
The analytical tools can also expose other discrepancies. For instance, not all CSOs carry the same workload. One CSO might have 50 cases of intensive or maximum-risk offenders who need more supervision and another might have 50 minimum-risk cases.
Now 'we can make sure that case loads are evenly balanced and people are compensated' accordingly, Quander said. This will help in developing a workforce that is more appreciative of management because they recognize the people who are doing the work, he said.
SMART-STAT has vastly improved how the agency manages its relationships with providers of mental health and substance programs, whom the agency hires to work with offenders, said Joyce McGinnis, a policy analyst at CSOSA.
'One of our year-to-year performance measures that we track is the percentage of people who complete residential treatment satisfactorily,' she said. 'We noticed that when we put the SMART treatment module in place that it enabled us to be more responsive to [treatment providers] in terms of obligating money quickly or deobligating money quickly if the offender doesn't show up.'
Performance now has improved significantly and the agency can get more people in necessary programs. Agency officials have also recovered money that was set aside for people who never showed up, she said.What's next?
The next planned phase of SMART-STAT is performance budgeting, Kirkendale said.
The technology foundation provides CSOSA with more opportunity to apply predictive analytics and decision precision, he said.
CSOSA will continue to enhance SMART STAT with more automated scheduling and tracking capabilities.
For example, a judge might put an individual on probation, and to comply with that order, the person might have to get a Graduate Equivalency Diploma. That person might have to be referred for vocational assessment and take certain training courses. That information comes to CSOSA in paper form now and has to be keyed into SMART. The CSO receives an alert to follow through on the referrals.
'Wouldn't it be great to have an electronic version go right into my system?' Quander asked. Instead of having the CSO make the referral, the computer can contact the vocational-development calendar to see when there is an available slot for the person and then schedule an appointment. The CSO can spend more time talking with the individual, he said.
If the person does not show up for the appointment, an alert needs to be sent to the CSO to get involved. Now that CSOSA has laid the foundation, there is some automation that can be developed to continue to make the agency workforce more efficient, Quander said.
Kirkendale said that the .NET platform will facilitate communication with the courts, allowing the agency to provide information automatically. For instance, some offenders may be given several programs, but there may not be enough hours in the day for the people to complete them in the time the court stipulated. In the future, CSOSA could relay this information to the court via SMART, he said.
Quander and top agency officials want managers to be more proactive now that they have SMART-STAT.
'They should come to me and say, 'Quander, if you give me [these specific resources], I can get my job done better.' That helps me tremendously,' he said. Then, 'I can go to Capitol Hill and say, 'This is what we need, let me show why we need it'. 'The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia has deployed a data warehouse that officials can use to monitor and supervise the more than 20,000 ex-offenders in the city.
The backbone of the agency is the Supervision and Management Automated Records Tracking (SMART) case management system. A new component, the SMART-STAT Web portal, gives managers visibility into the outcome of offender supervision and treatment.
The environment runs on a SAS 9 platform and consists of a Microsoft Windows server on which the following technologies are loaded. SAS Enterprise Data Integration Server
EDI provides a way to build and manage the Enterprise Data Warehouse that supports SMART-STAT and other forms of management reporting and intelligence-building exercises. SAS Enterprise BusinEss Intelligence Server
EBI provides CSOSA a way to develop and surface reports via a portal, providing SMART-STAT intelligence to executives, managers and supervisors within the agency. SAS Enterprise Miner and Text Miner
These tools provide an advanced analytic framework to begin generating offender typologies needed to focus on intervention efforts. SAS Stat and ETS
SAS Stat and ETS provide CSOSA analysts and statisticians with an environment to explore the data warehouse and other data sources for potential new areas of management and performance reporting.