You are a corrections professional, and the odds are NEVER in your favor. While the legal system equips you with authority in your jail, it also offers your inmates a forum to file suit against you. Here in Minnesota, jail staff operate on a legal platform called 2911.

This article will briefly explain 2911, what happens if a facility is non-compliant, and dive into three ways technology can help your jail gain compliance. We will have a specific focus on the following requirements:

  1. Security post records (2911.5000, Subp. 3.)
  2. Counting (2911.5000, Subp. 4.)
  3. Well-being (2911.5000, Subp. 5.)

What is 2911?

Every state government legislates a set of statutes to define its organization and scope of action. Here in Minnesota, those statutes are called the Minnesota Administrative Rules. These rules define the 104 agencies that make up Minnesota’s government, from the Attorney General Office to the Zoological Board.

One chapter from these statutes directly addresses Minnesota jails: chapter 2911. Seeking insights into day-to-day operations, Jail Administrators across Minnesota use this document as their rulebook. Jail auditors will frequent its 85 rules to understand the government’s expectations on topics such as: facility layout, staff training, sanitation, and inmate welfare.

[Chapter 2911] provides minimum standards for public and private correctional facilities throughout the state established and operated for the detention and confinement of persons detained or confined according to law except to the extent that they are inspected or licensed by other state regulating agencies. [...]

- Minnesota Administrative Rules. 2911.0100.

Why does 2911 exist?

2911 tells jails what to write policy about, not how to write policy. These statutes were designed equally for the 1000-bed jails all the way down to the 4-bed jails. If you’re a Jail Administrator, don’t expect this document to give you any tips or best practices on how to run your jail. For example, 2911 raises the topic: “program volunteers” and simply says:

When volunteers are used in facility programs, a written policy and procedure shall provide that a staff member is responsible for coordinating the volunteer service program. The policy includes the following elements: [...]

- Minnesota Administrative Rules. 2911.3500. December 20, 2013.

This paragraph doesn’t give you a clean list of volunteer agencies to pick from or even tips on how to chose one volunteer over another. It only states that you need to have some sort of written policy for your use of volunteers.

What happens to jails that don’t follow 2911?

Minnesota jails undergo inspections at least once a year. If a jail is found to be non-compliant with any aspect of 2911, then the inspector will issue a deficiency report. This report has devastating effects. It’s a kiss of death on your next court case.

Let’s say, for example, that you have an inspection and the inspector marks you as deficient on your use of volunteers. From that point on, if one of your inmates ever assaults a volunteer and that volunteer sues your jail, then your deficiency report will strip you of all credibility in the eyes of the court. It will be very difficult to prove that you did everything in your power to protect the victim when the state deems your policies deficient.

How technology can help your jail improve on 3 requirements in chapter 2911

In this article, we will target 3 rules within chapter 2911. These 3 rules only make up 1% of the full 2911 text, and yet they are arguably the most important rules for your jail’s defensibility in court.

Court cases are driven by evidence. Jails generate evidence by maintaining a detailed body of facts that can refute any deliberate indifference toward inmates on behalf of jail staff.

Compliance with these rules isn’t just compliance with 1% of 2911, it’s a paradigm shift in how you gather evidence. It’s the assurance that you can defend your officers in your next court case. It’s operational dominance.

The 3 requirements are:

  1. Security post records (2911.5000, Subp. 3.)
  2. Counting (2911.5000, Subp. 4.)
  3. Well-being (2911.5000, Subp. 5.)

#1 How to improve “security post records”

Every Minnesota corrections officer that is assigned to a housing unit needs to maintain a complete activity log of what occurs in that housing unit. Whether you are sitting in a direct supervision dormitory bumping elbows with 100 good-spirited inmate workers, or you are uncomfortably walking the Ad Seg hallway, you will need to log every single event - both ordinary and extraordinary. 2911 calls this log a “shift report”:

Custody staff shall maintain a record and prepare shift reports that document routine and emergency situations and unusual incidents. Records shall be maintained according to the county retention schedule. - Minnesota Administrative Rules. 2911.5000, Subp. 3.

How to better track “routine incidents”

Routine incidents are events that are scheduled or expected. An ideal shift report would group all such events by date, inmate, as well as a set of relevant activity types, for example:

  • Supply passes
  • Recreation offerings
  • Meal offerings
  • Med passes
  • Dayroom activities
  • Out-of-cell movements

Does your jail have a legally defensible shift report? Take a moment and think about your jail’s current shift report. Does it pass the following test?

  1. Is this shift report thorough enough to keep my officers out of the courtroom, instead of referring to their in-person testimony?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  2. Could my officers have falsified this report in any way that would cause me to lose credibility in front of a judge?
    - Answer should be: No
  3. How long should it take me to log into my computer and view a full month-long shift report?
    - Answer should be: <30 seconds

There are several ways to collect these routine incidents. Some Minnesota jails prefer to log routine events directly into their Jail Management System (Example: LETG, Zuercher, OMS). This method is infinitely better than paper logs. It allows for fast and easy reporting and it eliminates pencil whipping. However, many jails that log their routine incidents directly into their JMS will end up creating a new issue: officer distraction.

When you tell your officers to log routine incidents into a computer, you’ll start to notice that their eyes are glued to computer screens instead of observing inmates. For this reason, lots of Minnesota jails are exploring mobile solutions to replace JMS data entry. Mobile logging solutions allow officers to log incidents as they witness them, instead of forcing officers to return to a computer workstation for logging. There are several solutions out there to choose from: Mobile Command by GUARDIAN RFID, Cortrak by Dynamic Imaging, The PIPE by Timekeeping, etc.

How to better track “emergency situations”

Emergency situations are events that require an immediate response on part of jail staff. A thorough shift report would group all such events by date, inmate/location, as well as a set of relevant violation types, for example:

  • Medical emergency
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Contraband Found

Does your jail have a streamlined process for logging emergencies? Take a moment and think about the way your jail currently documents emergency situations. Does the process contain the following workflow?

  1. Witnessing officers create initial incident report
  2. Supervisor approves incident report (and all subsequent narratives)
    - Officers have ability to update rejected narratives
  3. Hearing officer conducts preliminary hearing (if applicable)
  4. Hearing officer conducts formal hearing and appeals process (if applicable)
    - Supervisors have ability to append new evidence

Most Minnesota jails document these emergencies as formal incident reports. These incident reports come in all shapes and sizes. Some jails will log their incidents on paper, some will type the incidents into their Jail Management System, while others -like Sherburne County- will log the incidents on a rugged voice-to-text device called SPARTAN.

How to better track ”unusual incidents”

Unusual incidents can be described as any event that is out of the ordinary but doesn’t require the immediate attention from jail staff. A thorough shift report would group all such events by date, inmate, location, as well as a set of relevant next actions. Here are some examples of unusual incidents:

  • Shower nozzle broken
  • Scratches under staircase
  • Inmate John Doe seems more lethargic than usual
  • Inmate John Doe spent 2 hours alone in dayroom

Does your staff log every unusual event? Think about your jail’s current shift report. Does it pass the following test?

  1. What percentage of the unusual incidents in my shift report are about specific inmates?
    - Answer should be: >50%
  2. How many sources do I need to reference in order to compile a shift report on unusual incidents?
    - Answer should be: 1
  3. How long should it take my officer to log a 7-word description about an unusual incident?
    - Answer should be: <10 seconds

Most Minnesota jails don’t have consistent methods for tracking these incidents, instead they rely on indirect reports such as maintenance logs, inventory reports, or historic email correspondence.

These occurrences seem insignificant. And that’s exactly why you need to log them. The more detailed your account of unusual incidents, the more credibility you’ll have when it comes time to stand in front of a judge and defend yourself against a death in custody. Urge your officers to log more unusual events, taken alone they might seem to be of no consequence but after some analytics they can show behavior that is consistent with suicide ideation or violence.

#2 How to improve “counting”

When an officer fails to log routine incidents, he ends up in the warden’s office. But when an officer fails to properly clear count, he ends up on the 5 o'clock news. Jails need to create a system for counting inmates. 2911 describes this system as follows:

A facility shall have a written policy describing the system of counting inmates. Formal counts shall be completed with an official entry made in the daily log at least once each eight hours.

The facility shall maintain a system that identifies the whereabouts of all inmates in custody and includes a system of accountability for inmates approved for temporary absences from their assigned housing units. A written policy and procedure shall provide that staff regulate inmate movement. - 2911.5000, Subp. 4.

How to improve your jail’s “formal counts”

Formal counts are the purest form of tracking inmate whereabouts. Every 8 hours, Minnesota jails are required to locate every single inmate in its custody. Formal count differs from informal count in that it requires face-to-face identification, instead of just “counting bodies."

Some jails will decide to play with fire and clear count through surveillance cameras instead of physical presence. If any jail was to standardize on this process, then command staff would quickly realize its legal risk. Relying on video feeds to clear count is just plain wishful thinking. Human nature is human nature.

Take a minute and think of your favorite officer, the one who’s always respectful and compliant, the one who bolsters staff morale. Now imagine sending that officer to a dark control room with the task of clearing count using only video feeds. He’ll start off being very thorough, but after a year of resting on those comfortable armrests and staring at blurry TV screens, complacency will creep in.

Formal count is the most essential task for the corrections professional. It’s insulting to the profession to say that it can be executed from a comfortable office chair. Even if some superhuman officer beats human nature and logs every single inmate, every 8 hours, complete with video timestamps and inmate booking numbers... You still lose. No court is going to respect a counting method that involves sitting in a chair.

All is not lost. Jails across Minnesota are logging their formal headcounts in all sorts of ways. Here are the most common methods.

Method #1 Paper Log

An officer posted in the control room will log into the JMS and print off a list of inmates. The officer assigned to each housing unit will check a box next to each inmate’s name on the list once face-to-face identification is made. All inmates that are temporarily absent from housing unit are cleared via radio chatter. This paper log is then archived for future reference by a records keeper.

This method is most prevalent in today’s jails, juveniles facilities, and prisons. When your officers carry a paper log around, it forces them out of the control room and into the housing units. That means that you have lots of eyes on the process: the officers in the control room, the officers walking the housing unit, and not to mention the records keeper. The more eyes the merrier.

However, this method does have its downfalls. When you rely on paper, you lose the ability to quickly run a monthly or yearly report on count and population. Worst of all, with paper you still aren’t immune to staff complacency. As far as a judge is concerned, that little checkbox next to the inmate’s name will bare little proof of officer presence. The officer could have easily falsified the log. And no, you can’t always rely on video footage to prove officer-to-inmate presence during counts. If the inmate escaped or “walked off," then chances are he has figured out how to avoid cameras during a headcount.

Pros

Cons

  • Forces officers out of the office chair
  • Involves more than one officer
  • Attracts more than one set of eyes
  • Cumbersome reporting
  • Ease of falsification
  • Added administrative labor

Method #2 JMS Logs

Most direct supervision jails in Minnesota have the luxury of desktop computers in their larger housing units. They can open their JMS, navigate to a headcount report, and then clear count electronically. This method is very simple, the officer looks up from his computer screen, positively identifies inmates (or walks by their cells if inmates are in lock down), and then electronically checks off their names on the JMS headcount report.

This method is superior to paper logs because it allows for easy, long-term reporting. It also ensures that all counts are associated with a specific inmate’s profile, not just a housing unit. Instead of going to your records keeper and sifting through a cardboard box full of dusty papers, you can simply login to your JMS, click on an inmate’s name, and display every time officers cleared count on that inmate alone. This method offers more legal defensibility in as much as it’s electronic, the source code of every electronic log can be verified with a timestamp and an electronic user signature. In the eyes of the court, this is worlds better than a check mark on a piece of paper.

However, this method does have its downfalls. While it beats paper from a reporting standpoint, it loses from a face-to-face standpoint. JMS logging forces officers to sit back down in a chair in front of a computer and log the headcount. Comfortable office chairs win again! Without a doubt, using a computer makes the officer’s job easier, and sometimes that is the problem. Complacency creeps in and now officers are back to blindly checking boxes. Worst of all, your video feed will show staff clearing count without even looking up.

Pros

Cons

  • Quick and easy reporting
  • Metadata on each electronic log
  • Save administrative time and money
  • Comfortable office chairs
  • Blindly checking boxes
  • Damning video feeds

Method #3 Mobile Scanners

Minnesota jails are starting to explore mobile solutions for clearing count. JMS vendors are aware of the downfalls that come with clearing count from comfortable office chairs, which is why most JMS vendors are offering mobile scanning solutions instead. Now officers can pick up a mobile scanner, walk through the housing unit, and scan a checkpoint at each cell doors. Checkpoints can come in the form of barcodes, QR codes, bluetooth beacons or RF tags. Once the checkpoint is scanned, these mobile scanners will then upload the timestamps and housing unit details to the JMS server, thus defeating the comfortable office chair.

This method is superior to computer logging because it gets officers on their feet and face-to-face with inmates. As an officer you might say that this is a “big brother” approach, but at the end of the day, mobile scanners will protect you in court. Mobile scanners will prove that you were walking around during your headcount, not glued to a computer screen. And since these mobile scanners are connected to your JMS, reporting capabilities will be just as easy as if the officer had cleared count in front of a computer.

However, this method does have its downfalls. No JMS vendor in Minnesota is an expert in hardware. The mobile scanners in today’s market are susceptible to screen cracks, require flimsy charging wires, and rely on a physical plug-in to upload data to the JMS.

Beyond hardware issues, mobile scanners invite a new breed of complacency. Yes, officers are on their feet and checking on inmates… but is that guaranteed? Your officers are required to walk up to a cell door and scan a checkpoint. This checkpoint typically comes in the form of a barcode or QR code. Now let me ask you something, what would stop your officers from simply photocopying that barcode and scanning if from the dreaded comfortable office chair? Here’s a news story on bar code falsification. And what about your 20-something year old officers? What would stop them from Googling “generate a qr code” and simply scanning their computer screen? Human nature aside, what if the barcode or QR code is smudged or wet? Are inmates really just going to leave those sheets of paper alone?

Pros

Cons

  • Eliminate need for desktop computer
  • Metadata on each electronic log
  • Easy reporting
  • Ease of falsification
  • Still need to print paper
  • Hardware headaches

So are all mobile solutions bad? No. Why else would we have written this article? There are mobile devices out there that offer superior hardware and there are checkpoints that cannot be copied. When you start looking for a mobile solution - whether it’s GUARDIAN RFID or your JMS vendor - simply ask the following questions:

  1. Are the mobile scanners durable (Can they withstand dropping from a mezzanine? Will the battery last an entire shift? Do they come with easily swappable batteries? Do they charge on a cradle instead of with a flimsy cable?)
    - Answer should be: Yes
  2. Can checkpoints be copied in any way?
    - Answer should be: No
  3. Can inmates tamper with the tags using their bare hands or a pencil?
    - Answer should be: No

How to improve on “temporary absences”

Over the last 50 years, United States corrections has shown a trend of reduced inmate movements. Instead of sending an inmate to visitation, jails offer video visitation. Instead of sending all inmates to one single rec yard, jails attach pod-specific rec yards. Instead of classroom areas, jails append multi-purpose rooms to each pod. This points to a deeper philosophy: the less inmates have to move, the less risk the jail has to face.

Counting inmates is easy when they’re all congregated in the dayroom or hanging out in their lock-down cells, but it’s much harder to count inmates that are temporarily absent from the housing unit.

Minnesota jails have a wide variety of systems for tracking out-of-cell movements. Some use paper and pen, some use a whiteboard and a radio, while others use their good ol’ JMS.

We already covered paper logging and JMS data entry. So let’s dig into whiteboards. Some minnesota jails streamline movements with a simple magnetized white board. The white board displays the jail layout and each magnet has an inmate’s name on it. When the inmate is in his cell, an officer grabs the magnet and sticks it to the door of the inmate’s cell. When that inmate is out-of-cell, the officer grabs the magnet and sticks it to the white board on a designated area.

While this process is cost effective and simple, it also sets the jail up for lots of headaches, first and foremost: reporting. Without an electronic log of these movements, your jail will have no long-term proof of movement. Furthermore, inmates can easily tamper with this system by simply moving magnets around when the officer isn’t looking.

In the previous section on “formal counts," we established the pros and cons of paper, computer, and mobile. Those same principles hold true when it comes to “temporary absences." Smart mobile solutions give your officers an easy and legally defensible way to track out-of-cell movements. But there are 2 ways to deploy a mobile solution.

Method #1: Mobile solution + checkpoints

Minnesota jails that deploy mobile scanners for their formal counts can use that same hardware to create a “system of accountability for inmates approved for temporary absences." Officers can simply scan the checkpoint mounted near the cell doors, select inmate names as they appear on the mobile screen, and then log the destination. The mobile scanner will then upload those details for long-term reporting.

Whether it’s movements or headcounts, mobile solutions are a legally defensible solution. However, the mobile hardware needed to log movements needs to be slightly superior than the mobile hardware required to log headcounts:

Logging formal counts doesn’t require immediate reporting because the details of each formal count are only used for future reference. For this reason, your jail can opt for a mobile solution that simply uploads data at a desk or workstation. Logging movements, on the other hand, requires real-time insights. Your rover doesn’t have time to find an upload station for his mobile device. He needs the mobile device to be constantly talking to the server. For this reason, your jail needs to find a mobile solution that continuously uploads data via Wi-Fi or a service provider.

If you chose to deploy “mobile solution + checkpoints," then make sure it passes the following tests:

  1. Do the checkpoints reference my JMS in real-time?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  2. Can officers upload mobile information immediately via Wi-Fi?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  3. How long does it take the mobile scanner to scan a checkpoint?
    - Answer should be: <1 second

Method #2: Mobile solution + inmate ID

An Inmate ID is any scannable tag that is worn by an inmate. The most common forms of inmate IDs in modern corrections are: wristbands or card badges. The most common vendors in this space are Endur ID, PDC, and Pinnacle Technologies. For more info on the value and cost differences between these form factors, read up on Wristbands vs ID Cards.

Inmate IDs aren’t necessary for every jail. In fact, some jails might find that Inmate IDs only serve to complicate the booking process and cause more inmate complaints. If you go with mobile scanners + Inmate IDs then make sure your solution passes the following test:

  1. How long is the Inmate ID rated to last before needing to be replaced?
    - Answer should be: Longer than your inmate’s average stay
  2. Do I feel confident in writing policy and procedure around inmate IDs (staff instructions, inmate punishments for damaging county property)?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  3. How long does it take for my officers to scan an Inmate ID?
    - Answer should be: <1 second

#3 How to improve “well-being”

Since time immemorial, government authorities have incarcerated criminals. Throughout most of history, incarceration had the sole purpose of separating certain individuals from society and serving their most basic human needs. In the modern age, incarceration has become more political. Authorities are expected to not only sustain the inmate’s life, but also ensure well-being. 2911 outlines this requirement and states:

A facility shall have a system providing for well-being checks of inmates. A written policy and procedure shall provide that all inmates are personally observed by a custody staff person at least once every 30 minutes. Thirty-minute checks should be staggered. If a well-being check does not occur due to an emergency, it must be documented in the jail log and have supervisory review and approval.

More frequent observation is required for those inmates of a special need classification who may be harmful to themselves. Examples of inmates of a special need classification include those classified as potentially suicidal, or as mentally ill, or those experiencing withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. - 2911.5000, Subp. 5.

How to ensure that inmates are “personally observed”

Well-being is not just a fancy term for “alive." If that were the case, then the state of Minnesota would simply require officers to look at video feeds, and make sure inmates are moving every once in a while. Instead, Minnesota requires officers to be physically present at housing units and to look at each and every inmate at least every 30 minutes.

Ensuring that inmates are “personally observed” requires the officer to be physically near and look at the inmate. As with any officer responsibility, inmate observations need to be documented - because as far as the courts are concerned, if it wasn’t documented then it didn’t happen.

In this section, we’ll explain how to ensure legally defensible inmate observations. Take a moment and think about your jail’s current inmate observation report. Does it pass the following test?

  1. Can I pull a report that shows which officer looked at each inmate? Was each inmate observed at least every 30 minutes?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  2. Can I pull a report that describes both signs of life and general well-being on each inmate, and are these descriptions logged for each round?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  3. How long should it take me to log into my computer and pull a full month-long shift report for my entire jail?
    - Answer should be: <30 seconds

We already covered electronic logging methods in the first section of this article. So, instead of focusing on the technology, let’s focus on the officer.

Good Jail Administrators know that officers are the most important asset in the jail. In order to gain operational dominance, Minnesota Jail Administrators need to earn the respect of their front-line troops. As a Jail Administrator you need to gain trust. Officers will only trust you if they see that you are willing and capable of defending them in court. This professional trust is the key to improving your jail’s inmate observations.

Sit each officer down in your office and explain the value of “personal inmate observations." Pull that officer’s most recent observation report, match it with surveillance footage, and show the officer what it all means from a legal standpoint. Show the officer what it would feel like to present this report & footage to a judge after a death in custody. Ask the officer if he or she feels comfortable with the evidence. Explain all the ways you plan to defend and support the officer on that day, outlining what you plan to say to the judge in the officer’s defense.

Remember to keep an open mind. Sure, as the Jail Administrator you are the highest authority on the topic of effective jail operations--you know more than your officers in this sense. However, you might not be as knowledgeable as they are when it comes to new technology. Seek officer feedback on how to implement new technologies for their day-to-day tasks.

How to “stagger” your checks

Jails need to avoid patterns. As a corrections professional you might have noticed that some inmates stock up contraband and abuse their fellow inmates. These illicit activities thrive on the inmate’s assurance that officers are not looking. When an officer isn’t looking at the inmate, the inmate gets a window of opportunity to engage in those activities. For this reason, 2911 requires that jails avoid patterns when conducting rounds. This is the meaning of “staggered” well-being checks.

Sequence Staggering

Let’s come up with a real-life scenario. When Deputy Joe is conducting a well-being check at night, he walks by each cell in Alpha pod, looks in the window, and logs signs of life and well-being. He then goes back to the direct supervision desk. Deputy Joe knows he has 30 minutes until his next round of well-being checks. The temptation is to fall into a routine: check Cell A101, Cell A102, Cell A103, Cell A104, and then to walk up the staircase and check Cell A201, Cell A202, Cell A203, and Cell A204.

Following a routine in your cell checks gives inmates a window of opportunity to get away with illicit activities. The inmate in Cell A204 will hear Deputy Joe walk by Cell A101, and the inmate will know that the has exactly 4 minutes to wrap up his contraband and tuck it under the mattress.

Sequence staggering eliminates that window of opportunity. Deputy Joe can stagger his round sequence by randomizing his cell-check order. Sometimes he’ll start at A204 and go to A101, sometimes he’ll start at A204 and go through A101.

Time Staggering

Finally, Deputy Joe has mastered the art of sequence staggering. Now, inmates don’t know where he’s going to start his rounds, but unfortunately, they know when he’s going to start his round: every 30 minutes.

Time staggering consists in randomizing the times you check on each cell. The temptation is to set a timer on your computer that goes off 5 minutes before top-of-the-hour and bottom-of-the-hour. This creates 25 minute opportunities throughout the night for inmates to mess around.

During the day, Deputy Joe might be tempted to group his other responsibilities in 25 minute sprints. He conducts his rounds, and then gets back to his computer to knock out 25 minutes worth of computer work. This further drills a 25 minute routine into Deputy Joe’s mind.

In order to eliminate that window of opportunity during the day, Deputy Joe can break his responsibilities into smaller sprints. Instead of serving paperwork all at once, he might consider breaking it up throughout the day. Instead of conducting a preliminary hearing with that chatty inmate in lockdown, he might consider waiting until the rover visits and ask him to cover the rounds so he can tackle the preliminary hearing.

Can you use technology to stagger your rounds?

Yes. There are several rounds solutions out there that can help remind your officers to conduct their rounds. All modern rounds solutions leverage some form of mobile device (carried by staff) and some form of scannable checkpoints (mounted outside housing units).

Whether you chose to deploy GUARDIAN RFID or any other rounds solution, make sure it is both decentralized and real-time.

Decentralized rounds solutions are technologies that offer an audible or visual alert on each and every housing unit. Centralized rounds solutions simply tell you “It’s time to start your round," whereas decentralized solutions say “A101 has 3 min remaining, A102 has 5 min remaining, A101 has 6 min remaining, etc."

Real-time rounds solutions are technologies that offer an audible or visual alert based on dynamic calculation. Solutions that lack real-time insight will calculate alert time based on top-of-the-hour or bottom-of-the-hour timestamps. Real-time solutions will calculate alerts based on the last time an officer scanned the tag.

How to streamline “supervisory review and approval”

Up to this point, we’ve been discussing 2911 from the perspective of a Jail Administrator. Now, let’s look at this from a supervisor’s perspective. Once you streamline the data-collection process for your well-being checks, the next step is to improve your reporting process for well-being checks. Minnesota supervisors usually pull well-being reports on a daily basis (for the last 24 hours). The ideal review/approval process should have 3 layers:

  1. Facts
  2. Root Problems
  3. Solutions

Facts

When sending your well-being report to the Jail Administrator, you should offer a highly descriptive view of your officers’ round compliance. This includes 2 elements: observational detail, and an incident summary.

Observational Detail

When you pull an exhaustive report of your cell checks, you as a supervisor need to ensure it’s legal defensibility. Ensure that each well-being check has observational notes that prove signs of life. For example, immagine you pull your report and see that one of your officers consistently logs “Inmate is OK” every 20 minutes. The surveillance footage even shows this officer looking in the cell windows. Now, imagine one of your inmates is actually dead. All you have to defend yourself in court is written/video proof that your officer walked by a dead inmate for several hours before realizing what had happened.

Officers should avoid using “OK” to describe the well-being of inmates. Tell officers to use more descriptive descriptions for their observation log. It’s more defensible to say: “Inmate Appears Asleep, Head Covered, Chest rising and falling." When you force officers to log more specific observations, you’ll notice that they spend 2 or 3 more seconds in front of each window and your jail becomes more defensible in court.

Encouraging your officers to take more descriptive well-being checks is a tough task for jails that rely solely on JMS logs. If this is the case for your jail, then you may want to consider mobile logging solutions that facilitate observational notes at the point of responsibility.

Incident Summary

We just talked about observational detail, which is essentially a way of zooming-in on inmate well-being. Now let’s talk about incident summary, which is a way of zooming-out and looking at the big picture of inmate well-being.

Take a moment and think about your jail’s current compliance report. Does it pass the following test?

  1. Does this report show me exactly how many late checks occurred in the last 24 hours?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  2. Does this report show how many minutes my officers were on each check?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  3. Can I see which officer was responsible for each check?
    - Answer should be: Yes
  4. Do my officers have a way to log their written justification on each late check?
    - Answer should be: Yes

If your current compliance report doesn’t pass this test, then contact your guardtour vendor and see what it would take to access these fields. You can also reach out to us and speak with the GUARDIAN RFID team to learn how to improve your compliance report.

The Root Problem

When sending your well-being report to the Jail Administrator, you should offer your own diagnostic perspective.

While descriptive analysis focuses on the facts, diagnostic analysis finds the root problem. Once you pull your compliance report and identify your officers’ late checks and justifications, the next step is to generate insights for the Jail Administrator.

As a supervisor, you want to prove to your Jail Administrator that you can bring something to the table. Compiling a compliance report is valuable, but the truth is that any computer can do that. In order to stand out and actually add value to your facility, you need insights.

Let’s say you pull a compliance report for the last 24 hours and you notice 3 late rounds:

TIME 09/13/18, 12:11.

  • Deputy Joe Shmo
  • LATE by 5 minutes
  • CELL A203, A204 INMATE(s) John Smith, Fred Stone
  • JUSTIFICATION “John Doe stopped me in the dayroom to ask a really long question. I eventually asked him to pause his questions so I could do my round but I just missed the last couple cells.”

TIME 09/13/18, 18:34.

  • Deputy Joe Shmo
  • LATE by 7 minutes
  • CELL A204 INMATE(s) Fred Stone
  • JUSTIFICATION “Multiple inmates had questions when I was serving papers.”

TIME 09/14/18, 01:04.

  • OFFICER Jack Linx
  • LATE by 2 minutes
  • CELL A102 INMATE(s) Kyle Slate
  • JUSTIFICATION “I spent extra time on A101 to verify signs of life.”

Now that you have these facts, the next step is to add your own supervisory insights. For example:

“Here’s a brief summary of yesterday’s late checks. I’m starting to notice a pattern. It seems that officers are getting distracted by questions from inmates during meal times (in this case at 1211 and 1834 hours). I’ve also noticed this pattern sporadically over the last 30 days.”

Computers can generate facts. People have to draw insights from the facts. When you add these kinds of insights to your supervisory review, you become more unique and indispensable to jail operations. Take a moment and look at the last 24 hours of late checks. Can you find any patterns? Have you tried comparing it to last week’s report and looking at timestamps? Have you tried finding common threads between officers that are consistently late? Does more than one officer give the same justification?

Solution

When sending your well-being report to the Jail Administrator, you should offer your own prescriptive analysis.

Once you’ve delivered the facts, and suggested a root cause, the next step is to offer a solution to the problem. There’s a lot of truth to the saying “Never bring problems to your boss without proposing a solution."

Once you’ve determined that the root compliance problem is officers “getting distracted by questions from inmates during meals,” you can continue to offer a solution:

“Since this is becoming a common issue for my officers, I suggest we update our policies and procedures to require that a rover be present to help hand out meal trays. That way we can handle the extra inmate questions without missing rounds.”

Final Thoughts

2911 is a legal platform that gives corrections professionals the opportunity to prove no deliberate indifference toward their inmates. Minnesota jails that focus on Security Post Records, Counting, and Well-Being will notice a paradigm shift in their legal defensibility. That defensibility will be stronger for those that eliminate paper logs and use a mobile solution. Command staff will gain more respect and trust from line staff and jail operations will become more streamlined.

GUARDIAN RFID has been serving Minnesota jails for over a decade. If you are seeking guidance on Security Post Records, Counting, or Well-Being then feel free contact us today.