Prisoner transfer app relies on .Net

Corrections officials in Wisconsin counties are saving money and aggravation with software developed using Microsoft Corp.'s .Net services to monitor prisoner transfers between courts, jails and other correctional facilities.

About 18 months ago, the sheriff of Douglas County, Wis., told Phil Brandsey, CEO of Emerald Systems Inc. of Spooner, Wis., about the problems the county had scheduling prisoner transfers. The sheriff said he often went to a state facility to pick up a prisoner only to find that the neighboring county also had prisoners who needed transport, duplicating law enforcement efforts and travel costs.

Nobody knew about transfers in advance. It was irritating, time-consuming and expensive, Douglas County sheriff Tom Dalbec said.

Keeping track

Brandsey suggested they work together to develop a server-based program for tracking transfers.

Within 60 days, 54 county sheriffs had agreed to test the Prisoner Exchange and Transport Scheduling, or PETS, application.

Corrections officials in all 72 of Wisconsin's counties can now access PETS. With more than 30,000 transfers a year, the projected annual savings is about $3 million.

Brandsey said the application soon will be available to counties in other states. It is one of the first large-scale uses of Microsoft's C# .Net tools ever, he said.

PETS took about a year and a half to develop with Microsoft VisualStudio .Net and C#. It went live in December, using a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 database management system.

'When the need is there, you see how quickly people can come together,' Brandsey said.

The PETS application has a space for comments, so the officers who physically transfer a prisoner know in advance if there is a history of violence or communicable disease.

'We built PETS with the understanding that it could go nationwide and support very broad Web services,' he said. 'The Web knows no borders.' He said the application could potentially support prisoner transfers at the local, state and federal levels.

Several PETS features are not yet being used in Wisconsin, such as an alert system for prisoner escapes. If a prisoner is wearing a Global Positioning System device, PETS can monitor the prisoner during a transfer and automatically notify law enforcement agencies along the route for 'an instant response to an escape,' Brandsey said.

PETS also could track sexual offenders across state borders. A state could set up a .Net service to transmit data about a sex offender's transfer to law enforcement agencies elsewhere, as well as update federal databases and notify Victim Information and Notification Everyday groups. The VINE services tell victims when offenders are released from or escape from prison, or are transferred to another facility.

The technology is ready, Brandsey said, but it would have to be integrated with existing government systems.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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