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Thread: Almost a good idea!
06-21-06, 08:22 PM #1
Almost a good idea!
The kiosks are coming! The kiosks are coming!
By Jim Montalto, News Editor
“A consequence of putting men in cells and controlling their movements is that they can do almost nothing for themselves. For their various needs they are dependent on one person, their gallery officer. Instead of feeling like a big, tough guard, the gallery officer at the end of the day often feels like a waiter serving a hundred tables or like the mother of a nightmarishly large brood of sullen, dangerous and demanding children.”
“-CO, would you call to check the money in my commissary account?
-CO, can you find out when my disciplinary hearing is?
-CO, can you call to see why my laundry bag didn’t come back?
-CO, will you call to see if they got a new package list?"
-Ted Conover in his book, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing
How many times have you or your staff felt burdened by the incessant barrage of questions posed by inmates on just one shift alone? They might come from different inmates and perhaps be asked in different ways but most usually require the same answer or same task again and again. Taking the time to address appropriate inmate requests and concerns is part of the job. But they should not distract officers so much that they prevent them from keeping their area orderly and safe.
Jan Bates, the inmate program manager at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, thought so too, which is why she found a way to address CO concerns about the increasing number of inmate requests.
“We looked at our deputies to see all the redundant work they were doing, like distributing canteen order forms, and checking the day’s kitchen menu. Our population keeps growing, but our staff numbers can’t keep up with inmate requests,” Bates says, “so we started looking for ways to become more efficient and use technology better.”
Hillsborough County’s Orient Road and Falkenburg Road jails are not designed like the ordinary jail cell and control room configuration. Each pod is 10,000 square-feet and holds 64-bed. Within each pod, one deputy oversees between 64 and 72 inmates in a dorm-like setting. County officials say this direct supervision system creates a sense of trust and safety between inmates and deputies, which makes for a quieter and less hazardous environment compared to a typical jail setting – Bates says in the 23 years she has worked in the pod system she has not seen any major disturbances.
“However, the number of requests was overwhelming, so we decided to put a kiosk in each pod that addressed a lot of inmate concerns,” she says.
Bates initially looked for turnkey cabinet solutions, but the costs were too high. So, she separately bid for the cabinets, touch screens and CPUs. As a result, she was able to keep production expenses to about $2,000 per kiosk and ensure programming flexibility with her legacy facility systems.
“We already had a jail management system from Unisys that we’ve been modifying for the past 20 years, so we didn’t want to learn a whole new system just for the kiosks,” explains Mark Horvath, a programmer for Hillsborough County.
The cabinets, which are bolted to the floors, look like blue standing mailboxes and encase the touch screens and any necessary wiring. The CPUs, which were purchased from Dell under a state contract, are also protected inside the cabinet and provide access to just about anything inmates need from ordering bibles and canteen items to communicating with their public defender.
“This was our way of getting inmates some sort connectivity to the questions they ask a on a daily basis; When’s my next court date? What are my charges? What are the menus for the daily meals? Where can I find a bail bondsman?” Horvath says.
Bates gave Horvath guidelines based on conversations with her deputies. Horvath than wrote a program that addressed what inmates were asking for including accessibility to their public defenders.
“Through a simplified email system, called I-mail, offenders can choose from about twenty topics that can then be sent to the Public Defenders office. The attorneys then call our facility to talk with their clients,” Horvath explains.
Inmates can find general information on the screens. When they log in with their booking number and password they can review their charges and gained time awards, sign-up for programs, review schedules, and request a visitation.
“I can also send out general announcements for entire the population or just to designated areas or individuals,” Bates adds.
Soon, inmates will be able to request non-emergency medical assistance, obtain information on community services, submit and receive requests for the chaplain, medical facility, and law library, access classification, and read information about the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Bates says video capability could be the next upgrade, because it will address literacy issues.
The system behind the information booths will also see updates soon too.
“Right now, we’re using Unisys’ Mapper as our behind the scenes program, but we’ll probably move to a Visual Basic platform. Visual Basic is more current so more people will be well-versed in it and it will do a better job of data probing,” Hovrath says.
Despite the amount of information available, both Bates and Horvath stress that inmates do not have access to public or in-house computer systems. Each kiosk is stripped of Internet capabilities and any programs that do not contribute to the basic informational program. Even the I-mail is a limited feature that prevents inmates from doing much else but send a request for assistance.
The kiosks may appear to be a convenient tool for inmates, but Bates wants to be clear that they were built with the deputy in mind.
“There will be a significant reduction of numerous time-intensive, paper-based tasks that are currently submitted and manually processed,” she stresses. “The purpose of the kiosks is to make processes more efficient and use less staff for these repetitive requests. By accomplishing this, deputies can concentrate on security.”
Bottom Line: Mainstreaming redundant processes, by creating a kiosk or by posting frequently sought out information, can help COs stay focused on keeping themselves and inmates safe and secure.
For more information about kiosks contact Jan Bates, inmates program manager at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, 813-247-8488.
Capt. D. Larimore
NTISF Gang Unit
06-21-06, 08:38 PM #2
As a former C/O I must say that is an excellant idea"And don't go home, and don't go to eat, and don't play with yourself. It wouldn't look nice on my highway", Buford T. Justice
#1 Rule in Police: Sometimes its easier to ask Forgiveness than it is to ask Permission
No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
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