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The value of having real-time offender information at your fingertips

Day-to-day tasks are made safer, more efficient and transparent thanks to mobile apps that allow you to chronical observations, alert you to risks and do work on the go


Sponsored by Tyler Technologies

By Philip J. Swift for Corrections1 BrandFocus

When I walked on to the tier as a rookie deputy in the fall of 1998, I was overwhelmed by what lay before me. The building was built in 1952 by the Department of Corrections and resembled every hardcore penitentiary you have seen in the movies.

Mobile apps give greater visibility to real-time offender information on the go, improving facility efficiency, responsiveness and safety.
Mobile apps give greater visibility to real-time offender information on the go, improving facility efficiency, responsiveness and safety. (Getty Images)

There were three-liner tiers of 18 cells with a two-foot walkway extending over the open day space below. Each cell housed two inmates separated from the outside world by bars that appeared stronger than they were due to decades of painting and repainting. Each cell contained a steel bunk, sink, toilet, and a rectangular piece of metal bolted to the wall that once passed for a mirror, but currently were used as a place where residents left their marks in an effort not to be forgotten to time. The building had no exterior windows, leaving its occupants to rely on the clock and the rigid schedule of activities to gauge the passage of time.

Due to the tier's linear construction, the day space was reminiscent of a broad industrial hallway whose ceiling just happened to be three stories above you. Upon entry, the height and narrowness of the building caused most visitors to crane their necks skyward to rectify the congested feel of the day space and the vastness of openness above you. The day space was barren but for two metal picnic tables, a bank of phones, and two rows of TVs mounted to the wall in a configuration that was supposed to allow residents to watch them from their cells.

Between the noise of 108 occupants, the TVs at full volume, announcements blared over the PA, and the hollow reverberation of dominos and cards being slammed against metal tabletops, it was almost impossible to maintain a clear train of thought, much less a detailed memory of the interaction you had while making rounds once you entered the tier.

Managing 21st century challenges with 20th century tools

In order to manage the organized chaos that is often life behind bars, staff was outfitted with four tools that, when used correctly, maintained safety and security on the tier and across the facility through masterful documentation of inmate activity, movement, and other concerns: the tier sheet, out of building sheet, the jail management system and the logbook.

If these tools seem less than high-tech to you, you would be correct ─ three of them amount to nothing more than paper and pencil. The tier sheet lists residents' housing locations and special needs. The out-of-building sheet was used to track the comings and goings of residents. The logbook, which was a three-subject spiral notebook, was the primary depository of notes about resident activity and is often used as evidence in court of such. The jail management system is a database used to document movement, separations between residents, discipline, behavior, and other risk factors.

Too much information, not enough detail

Imagine yourself working in the environment. Now add in the realization that this tier housed special management high-risk residents, and the only thing between you and a drop to the concrete floor, if you are lucky enough to miss the metal picnic tables on the way down, is a railing that rose to just above hip level. As you make your rounds every 30 minutes, you have to check on the safety and welfare of 108 residents in 54 different cells, on three different tiers, each with special needs, separations, gang ties, etc.

Upon completing those rounds, you return to your trusty logbook and make a notation about every interaction you had and the observation you made that may be relevant to the next shift, complaint or investigation down the road. With your pen in hand and, being fully aware of the importance of your documentation, you write "round complete all ok" neatly in a logbook, followed by "one to medical."

Why such little information if staff understands how important it is? The simple answer is information overload in an environment where staff is constantly forced to multitask, leaving little time for detailed work.           

Essential tools and critical alerts at your fingertips

Now imagine an integrated system where access to the Jail Management System, the logbook, the out-of-building sheet, and the tier sheet are always at the officer's fingertips on any Android-enabled device.

Imagine the quality of information that could be obtained and managed via voice-to-text data entry, facial recognition, round tracking ability, and real-time notification of actions that could violate policy or create a life safety issue.

Now add to this the ability of supervisors to audit activity throughout the facility from a web-based dashboard that provides valuable data and is intuitive to use.

Wishful thinking, right? Or does it sound like another promise of future capabilities by a vendor at the last trade show you just visited? The good news is that it is not either of these.

When you fully integrate Tyler Technologies' Corrections Mobile with Tyler's corrections management software, staff can log observations and activities while making rounds, provide access to real-time data regarding life safety issues, and become more efficient while increasing transparency and reducing liability.

Enhance officer safety and inmate well-being with intuitive features

So how does Tyler Technologies' Corrections Mobile-enabled devices make good on their promise to enhance officer safety and resident well-being?

First, the design of the app is familiar to anyone that uses or has used a smartphone. If you can take a selfie with your smartphone, you can use the facial recognition function to access the device and verify the identity of residents.

Tracking rounds and scanning wrist bands are completed similarly to scanning QR codes to view a restaurant's menu; simply point and click.

In much the same way you would be notified about hazards ahead during your commute to work, these devices recognize hazards that may arise from resident movement and notify you before you can execute the move.

Knowing that any system is only as good as the data that you put in it, noting observations while on the move is made easy by a voice-to-text feature that also allows hands-free editing.

Making jail operations more transparent

Devices enabled with Corrections Mobile can increase transparency and efficiency by accurately recording resident and staff activity in a format that can be audited in real-time and maintained according to record retention policy, while at the same time reducing liability.

Regardless of your facility's nature, responding to the chaotic reality of managing a corrections environment is made easier with Tyler Technologies' Corrections Mobile.

Better to be prepared than lucky ─ as we can all agree that luck runs out. Corrections Mobile helps you be prepared and practical.

Learn more about Tyler’s Enterprise Corrections solutions by visiting https://www.tylertech.com/products/enterprise-corrections.

Read next: Using technology to reduce recidivism: A novel approach to resident communications and resources

About the author

Philip J. Swift is currently serving as a City Marshal in the DFW area of Texas and has been a law enforcement officer since 1998. He holds a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology and his areas of research include behavioral learning theory, cognitive schemes, group psychology, and historical trauma theory. He has several published works and regularly speaks locally and nationally regarding his research and expertise in law enforcement and criminal culture.

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