Tennessee Corrections staff soon can avoid doubting TOMIS

Tennessee Corrections staff soon can avoid doubting TOMIS

The Tennessee Corrections Department is giving its clunky mainframe systems a new Web front end.

The department has been rapidly outgrowing the Tennessee Offender Management Information System. Corrections staff use TOMIS to track 20,000 state inmates, 50,000 people on probation and parole, and 5,000 people in county jails.

But the system is cumbersome and takes new employees about six months to learn how to use, said Howard Cook, the department's assistant commissioner for operations.

TOMIS, written in Cobol, resides on an 11-year-old mainframe, said Barbara Charlet, MIS director of the Corrections Department.

Owned jointly by the Corrections Department and the Tennessee Probation and Parole Board, TOMIS stores information related to an inmate's status, criminal history, sentencing, disciplinary actions, grievances and a list of other inmates that the inmate has had problems with, Cook said.

Users must type in what Cook called conversation codes to access the data.

For example, to view information on an inmate's transfers and movements within the system, a user had to enter the code LMI. Cook has had to keep a sheet of paper in front of him that lists all the codes.

Some of the older green-screen terminals that staff use to access TOMIS won't let users scroll up or down, Cook said.

Most of TOMIS' 6,000 users access the system over thin-client machines, Charlet said.

'We knew we needed something more graphical,' Charlet said. And TOMIS, in its existing configuration, can't interface with other systems, she said. So the department put together a request for proposals to find a more graphical, easy-to-use system that could interact with other systems.

One of the top proposals offered a replacement system for TOMIS that cost $14 million. But the chairman of the state committee that reviews all of Tennessee project plans said that TOMIS did what it was supposed to do and the department had to make do with it for another 10 years, Charlet said.

Charlet and her team decided to go with a proposal from Jacada Ltd. of Atlanta that offered to create a browser-friendly user interface with the existing mainframe for less than $2 million.

The new TOMIS system will run over the state intranet and not on the Web, Charlet said.

A pilot test of the new system received a positive response from users about a year and a half ago, Charlet said. Tennessee plans to roll out the revamped TOMIS in October, she said.

Not only will the new system save on training, it will give staff members more time to work with inmates, Cook said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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