3 Major Benefits of Transitioning from Paper to Technology

My team is already familiar with using paper logs, why would I switch? What does “transitioning to technology” really mean? What’s so special about technology management that my team doesn’t already know? Paper logs have been a tried-and-true process of capturing data in jails with regards to inmates, facility conditions, and staff activities… or have they?
Kenzie Koch
Kenzie Koch
Contibutors:
Mark Cowley | JailOps

Mark Cowley, JailOps, is the epitome of “0 to 100.” Why? Well, he quite literally started his career in law enforcement with zero management or defensibility tools, and by the time he finished his career, he had the power of the world in the palm of his hand. How? Let’s break it down. Mark didn’t have email for the first seven years of his career (can you imagine?) and his team kept track of their inmate movements with a mere pen and paper. Hence, Mark started at “0.” He had gone from handwriting reports to learning computer AS400 systems and then to using the technology we have today, the SPARTAN. Hence again, he jumped up from “0” to “100” real quick. Although the transition process isn’t as quick as a snap of your fingers, it’s a simple (and critical) move to make. This blog will walk you through three major benefits of making the switch from paper to technology including: familiarization, organization, and convenience. You will learn more about the transition process via the lens of Mark’s experience and how his team benefited from switching from paper logs to technology, and never looked back. 

Familiarization

You may have thought “my team isn’t very tech-savvy, so I’d be setting them up for failure if I were to introduce technology as a management system.” This is a totally reasonable suspicion. In fact, Mark’s agency had the same worries. It’s extremely common for agencies that are accustomed to working in one particular fashion to be worrisome about changing things up. The most intimidating piece of introducing a new technology is wondering if the team will accept and adapt to the change. Luckily, GUARDIAN RFID’s SPARTAN is similar to a tool that most people are familiar with using on a daily basis - a smartphone. 

Having the familiarity of a smartphone is an important benefit as it allows for a smooth transition to utilize the SPARTAN. For example, the SPARTAN camera is similar to a camera on a smartphone, but a lot nicer. It has a 14-megapixel high-definition camera for digital video and imaging capturing evidence at the point of responsibility. Like a smartphone, the device needs to be charged. SPARTAN runs on 14-hour run time (even with its fast Wi-Fi speeds) and comes with two hard-pack batteries and a charging cradle. The device has a similar shape, size, and weight to a smartphone making it easy to conveniently stow away in a pocket or holster, but the SPARTAN is the largest, sharpest screen display in its class of ruggedized Android devices. 

Although there are many significant similarities between a smartphone and a SPARTAN, there is one major difference: distractions. Unlike smartphones, the device doesn’t have any distracting features, such as access to apps, social media, the Internet, (or dating apps!). The SPARTAN only allows your jail’s staff to focus on capturing inmate documentation and conducting work-related activities.

Organization

Each day at Mark’s facility, paper logs were sorted and delivered to different offices since different people managed different purposes. Although it was a daily task, it was never a smooth process. It was never uncommon for Mark to stop and chat with someone for a couple minutes before continuing on with work, only to find out he had set some papers down somewhere and couldn’t find them. Thus, he spent a lot of time backtracking to where he had originally started. But that’s just the beginning - because once the documents were presumably safely stored away, that’s when the real frustration kicked in.

When starting in the jail every morning I was flooded with paper records of all kinds: new inmate bookings, officer activity reports, food service logs, special watch logs, medical logs, and logs, and logs, and logs. Most of my frustration came from missing log information because the staff were too busy with inmates to provide and complete detailed information.
Mark Cowley
JailOps

From Mark’s experience, one of the most aggravating and time-consuming activities was having to research old records because the facility’s organization was disastrous. For example, once the initial purpose of the paper logs was fulfilled, they were stored in cabinets or boxes in outer buildings on the property that were used for storage. Not only did officers not have close, easy access to gathering these logs if needed, but then the difficult part was actually finding the specific information they were looking for. Everyone who stored these documents had their own method of organization. Some people organized the boxes by name while others liked using cabinets organized by booking number, or case number, or date, and so on. There were a multitude of sorting methods that caused so much confusion that officers would try to avoid the process altogether. When confronted with the task to find a specific document, the trudge starts. Each cabinet file and box are combed through trying to find all the specific documentation, while simultaneously learning how each officer sorts their files differently. This can take hours, days, or weeks depending upon the request.

There has been more than one occasion where the Sheriff asked where I was (as I had not been seen for hours) and was told ‘out in the storage bays looking for records.
Mark Cowley
JailOps

When thinking about a paper log, you may think “they have served their purpose so we shouldn’t have to search for them later on.” NOPE. It’s absolutely crucial to always have quick and easy access to any log that was made at any moment as it may be needed to assist in data for budgeting issues, or even lawsuits that come years after an event. Although it’s not particularly common, lawsuits will demand records relating to medical challenges, due process challenges, inmate petitioning for early release, death in custody hearings, challenges to spending, upgrades to facilities itself, etc. When receiving a subpoena, it's common for the wording to state something along the lines of “Supply any and all documents related to XYZ” so it’s important to keep any records of all information about inmates, dates, or the facility information.

Convenience 

Then, the magic of SPARTAN was born. Being able to digitally log an event in the palm of your hand instead of scrambling for a paper and pen was a game changer. GUARDIAN RFID was the first big shift in the corrections industry with the ability to collect multiple data points on inmate behaviors and activities. Items such as staff rounds, cell checks, and interactions with inmates for tracing meals, mail, and supplies, were suddenly easy to track with the click of a button. Staff didn’t have to remember to go write something down after the incident because the information they needed was captured at the point of the event. The data was captured, stored, and retrieved in a consistent manner. It made researching data so much easier. Mark remembers several occasions defense attorneys would come into his office and tell him that their clients were not getting meds, meals, showers, and a variety of complaints. Mark’s Go-To quickly became, “Well let’s just look” and he would pull up a report within a few minutes showing the attorney's client the specific complaint dates, times, and items. This technology was able to provide proof showing that not only that their client was not just offered these things, but that their client accepted or denied. Mark describes the user experience convenience factor as “not even comparable” to searching for paper logs. 

Not only was the convenience of pulling up documentation made much simpler, but the action of also providing it to other agencies looking for specific information. Records requested by neighboring agencies about transferring inmates’ behaviors were generated quickly on a report and sent on. For example, if an inmate has a known history of suicidal ideation and is transferred to a new facility, the original facility is responsible for communicating this information and any inmate medical health records to the new facility staff. Therefore, the new facility can take the appropriate precautionary steps regarding suicide watch rather than placing the inmate in general population. Communication is key, and that’s why it needs to be convenient to distribute.

 Not everyone will have the same experience as Mark while making the transition from paper logs to technology, but everyone will experience the same success. There are several other benefits of making the switch, but familiarization, organization, and convenience are the most important factors as we live in a world today where we expect results at the blink of an eye. Integrating GUARDIAN RFID SPARTAN technology into your agency is the first step to ensuring your team has the best defense in the industry.