Cook County locks down offender management

Cook County locks down offender management

When an inmate is kept in custody for almost six months longer than he should have been because of paperwork and bureaucracy, all eyes turn to the system.

Yet even as such a delay was dragging on in Illinois earlier this year, Robert McInerney, CIO at the state’s Cook County sheriff’s office, was already implementing a new jail management system. The county went live with Tribridge’s Microsoft Dynamics CRM-based Offender360 solution in October, using it to manage inmates from intake to release and sometimes beyond that.

“We’re the largest single-site jail in the country,” McInerney said. “We deal with about 9,000 inmates onsite and probably another  2,000 to 3,000 that are on electronic monitoring. We use the Offender product within our jail to manage everything from what dietary restrictions they have, where they’re moving throughout the jail, their court dates, whether they have grievances, whether there’s disciplinary notices for them.”

His motivation for change was two-fold: there were security and stability issues with the previous application, and a strong desire to enable jail and sheriff’s office leaders to use data to make better decisions.

“Sometimes you’ll do something, and it won’t change the metric you’re looking at or the population amount and you think, ‘OK, maybe that didn’t have the impact I thought,’” McInerney said. “Without that visibility [into the data], you could be walking around thinking you’re doing great things and actually you’re having no impact.”

“If you put somebody in and you say, ‘Hey, this person has high blood pressure or is a diabetic or is HIV-positive or whatever the case is…a lot of older systems will just capture that information and do nothing with it,” added Josh Jaquish, vice president of public sector and industry at Tampa, Fla.-based Tribridge. Offender360 lets users set up different rules so that when inmate information is entered, the system prompts for additional data or sends alerts and workflow changes out to various departments throughout the facility, notifying them of these different conditions, Jaquish said. “We eliminate some of the risk factors of human error.”

And to avoid problems such as incorrect release dates, Offender360 includes analytics, such as sentence calculations and rules engines, that alert officers to upcoming or past-due releases.

McInerney said the county’s 3,800 correctional officers and administrative staff use Offender360 with varying permissions. A booking officer, for instance, logs in and scans the inmate’s fingerprint. If the person is a repeat offender, the system pulls up prior files and creates a new one under the new booking number. The officer then interviews the inmate about religious background, educational level, medical history and other information.

The system also lets officers include photographs and register voice prints, but officers cannot enter free-form text; everything is selected from predetermined fields to keep the data standardized, Jaquish said.

To use the solution, the county had to deploy Microsoft CRM. Although it can be hosted in the cloud, McInerney keeps Cook County’s web-based solution on-premise with an eye toward migrating to the cloud in about two years. All personally identifiable information is encrypted on the server and protected via the application’s role-based security. Remote access is permitted only through the county’s network.

After some initial issues, the system has had 100 percent uptime for the past two months, McInerney said, and executives have been requesting that more data be added.

“They want to know everything from what is the population demographics as far as charges go [and] are people in the jail, for example, on a misdemeanor charge,” he said.

Offender Management is one of three components of the system, along with Facilities Management and Community Corrections Management. The latter includes tracking and monitoring capabilities in addition to reporting functions that produce real-time forms for audits and parole boards.

The new system converts historical data by taking records that all jails are required to keep, manipulating them in a file system, mapping the databases, automating the process and validating the data.

Offender360 sits in a relational, SQL server database and uses a Concerto Cloud that complies with Criminal Justice Information Services Division requirements. Because it’s a thin client, users typically access it via a web browser, and Tribridge is working to make it more accessible on mobile devices.

Looking ahead, McInerney said he expects to enhance the system so that when inmates leave the prison system, they can take a packet of information based on Offender360’s data with them as part of a program to reduce recidivism. The information would include, for example, the locations of nearby support programs or the logins and passwords for online high school courses that were started in custody – tools former inmates could use to move on with their lives, he said.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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