jail data

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Keeping score with a data-driven jail

I’m not a big sports fan, but I do catch a game every now and then. Broadcasters discuss the performance of every player, noting relevant statistics as the game unfolds and comparing players to each other and to their past performance. Teams with good stats move to the playoffs, and their players and coaches earn higher salaries.

Now let’s imagine a team that has no detailed stats to work with. How can its players improve? How can coaches see trends? Fair compensation becomes nearly impossible if performance measures are eliminated.

Today, many jails operate much like a team without stats -- in the dark. They assume that their long-time experience is enough to run an efficient operation.

But the truth is they often don’t know. Without data, they are robbed of the ability to compare themselves to others, to themselves or to manage effectively. They don’t know what they don’t know.

New jail management systems will change the way jails operate. Software captures vital information previously stored in paper-based logs, makes reporting easier and reducing the burden of searching for information on multiple databases.

New, mobile-ready systems include:

  • Task lists and reminder alerts to ensure employees perform necessary duties while capturing the information in a permanent log.
  • Analytics that tell jail managers about significant events, trends in jail populations, booking times and available bed space.
  • Real-time monitors that push booking data out to staff, showing which booking tasks have been completed, which remain to be done and identifying workflow backlogs.
  • Dashboards that provide high-level reviews of all jail functions.

Data will ultimately create awareness, drive decisions and reorder an area of law enforcement that has been largely reactionary. Deployed correctly, data will give insight into the management of a jail. Data-driven processes will improve employees' working conditions, and real-time data will give management insight into inefficiencies, allowing for reallocation of staff to smooth out workflow. Task lists will ensure vital jail functions have been addressed in the allotted time frame. Information related to recidivism or pretrial-services participants can be generated as bookings are accepted.

This new information will allow corrections officials to analyze the efficacy of their programs and allow them to provide timely and much needed information to decision-makers. A new generation of data-savvy employees will find creative solutions to stubborn problems.

We are at the forefront of this change and have only scratched the surface of the solutions that will follow. While jails are seemingly late to embrace data-driven decision-making, they are ready to adapt to necessary changes. The change is both heartening and exciting to see.

About the Author

Mark Long is a senior industry specialist with Tribridge.

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