Illinois prisons escape mainframe, move to CRM

The state's Department of Corrections moves from a 1980s mainframe system to cloud-based Microsoft Offender 360 for managing inmates and parolees statewide.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) is leapfrogging from mainframes to the cloud, using customer relationship management software from Microsoft to manage 49,000 inmates in 26 correctional facilities as well as 28,000 parolees, the company has announced.

Microsoft’s Offender 360, released last July, is based on its cloud-based Dynamics CRM platform. The system replaces a 1980s, green-screen mainframe system and 41 separate offender management applications that had become outdated and costly to use and maintain.

With the agency’s Cobol programming workforce retiring and a lack of available replacements in the hiring pool, "we were fast approaching a period where there was no one to do support and maintenance," Taylor told Computerworld.

Budget and ease of use were two other reasons for the switch. The new system “will save Illinois’ taxpayers millions of dollars while increasing public safety throughout the state,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a release. Illinois DOC expects to see lower costs via paper reduction, improved staff efficiency, and lower recidivism rates, Taylor said. Unlike the old system, Offender 360 allows staff to generate their own reports.

Offender 360 is the state’s first cloud initiative, said Steven Matthews, the DOC’s chief information officer. "Our ultimate goal is to reduce the recidivism rate," said Gladyse Taylor, assistant director of the DOC, reported InformationWeek. The department is using the software to track the behavior of inmates, as well as vocational and educational programs, she said.

The system is about 40 percent deployed. About 5,500 of the department's 10,500 employees will be using the system by this summer, Microsoft said. Illinois DOC plans to add disciplinary tracking and managing sentence credits within the next 30 days. It also is migrating information on sentence calculation, risk assessment, medical records and commissary operations. Once the system is fully up and running the mainframe will be shut down, she said.

Other states are also adopting Microsoft's CRM platform, Dynamics, to speed service and cut costs, although Illinois may be the first state to move to a cloud-based CRM solution to manage its criminal population. Virginia’s executive branch agencies moved to Dynamics last year. Other government entities using or installing Microsoft's solution include the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and Interpol Washington, Microsoft said.

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