Useful techniques for surviving budget cuts

By Robert Hood, Former Warden, Colo. Supermax

Budget reductions continue to have a significant impact on managing facilities in a safe and efficient manner. Every year, public safety agencies across the United States are expected to maintain high standards while budgets are continually reduced for equipment, training, contracts, and staffing. Here are a few suggestions for administrators working throughout the CJ system.

Hood's budget strategy for hard times:

• Purchase should be linked to organizational goals and objectives
• Learn about the product and determine how you would apply the technology to your setting
• Have purchasing documents ready --- get a quote (don't wait for the funding only to miss a short deadline from your supervisor)
• Ask for a reference account. See how effective the technology is being used by another facility
• Involve others in the procurement process. Get input from the end-user (often your entry level staff)
• Determine the ROI (Return On Investment) --- making sure the decision is cost-effective in the long run
• Check out the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) at for support, research, and technological expertise


Although all components of this strategy are important, the ROI is critical in today's correctional environment. Let's use the introduction of narcotics into a jail or prison setting to demonstrate the ROI strategy:

Facility X has 500 inmates in a jail designed for 420. During an average day a significant number of people enter the facility (staff, inmate families, contractors, vendors, lawyers, and inmates returning from community activities). Here are some elements that may need to be assessed:

• Number of outside visits
• Mailroom procedures
• Warehouse procedures
• Visiting Room monitoring
• Results from Urinalysis (random/suspect)
• Frequency of shakedowns
• Frequency of K-9 use
• Level of staff/inmate misconduct
• Assaults
• Sickness
• Escape attempts
• Suicides

Depending on the mission and security level of a facility, additional elements may need to be added to the list. Facility administrators can get a clear picture of their institution by using a strategic approach to assess their problem. With drug introduction issues, a drug interdiction program is needed. Once drug detection technology is identified (based on cost, service, and consumables), the ROI becomes more clear. Investing $38,000 for equipment to assist staff to perform their jobs and maintain a safe and secure environment clearly out weighs the burden of the initial costs. Reducing the introduction of drugs into an inmate population will have a significant impact.

The challenge for facility administrators is to ensure that tax payers are getting a strong return on their investment: Safer communities, efficient use of public dollars, and technology that addresses the current institutional population. Staff, inmate, and community safety must be a top priority when considering new technology.

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