How Can My Agency Pass a Jail Inspection When My Electronic Jail Check System Identifies and Logs Every Single Late Security Check?

Have you recently failed your jail inspection due to your electronic rounds system identifying late checks? Are you considering dumping your system and going back to pen and paper? Are you asking yourself if you made a mistake by switching to an electronic rounds system in the first place? Let's take a look at how you can use your system to be more accountable and defensible, while also successfully passing your jail inspection.
Jeff Kovar
Jeff Kovar
Contibutors:
Kenzie Koch | Marketing Specialist

Without a doubt, documenting your rounds with pen and paper is the cheapest option. Notice how the word “cheapest” was used instead of “most cost effective.” That wasn’t a mistake - not only is using pen and paper the lowest-priced option, but it is quite frankly also the cheapest due to its low quality and poor accountability. When enforcing the pen and paper approach to complete rounds, officers have a greater likelihood of incorrectly documenting their activities. Without someone physically standing over their shoulder reminding them to complete their log entries, officers may not make their checks in a timely manner, or at all (consider the case of Jeffrey Epstein for instance). Relying on pen and paper means trusting that all logs are accurately documented by hand. If a supervisor has that much faith in their staff, all the power to them. If not, reviewing video footage to compare the logs to ensure they weren’t falsified isn’t an easy or quick task. Just as we know that technology can be a pain, so is pen and paper. There is no simple way for a supervisor to audit the logs (which are oftentimes illegible) or manually store them away (which is oftentimes at an off-site location). At this point, it’s obvious why using pen and paper has a higher chance of exposing agencies to greater liability.

Understandably, technology can make officers hesitant as they don’t want to change from their current way of documenting jail checks. It’s up to the supervisors to help their staff understand the benefits of using an electronic rounds system by showing them how the system helps to ensure their jail checks are timely and protects them from liability. Plus, now that supervisors have a quick and easy way to audit jail checks, officers may feel micromanaged when their supervisors want to discuss their jail checks with them. If this is the case, it’s the supervisor’s responsibility to have an open discussion with their staff - using audit reports as a coaching tool is to support officers and make them better, not as a “gotcha” moment that results in disciplinary action.

In corrections, we hear the term “liability” quite often. Aside from providing the safety and security of the inmates and staff, administrators need to focus on improving their agency practice to reduce liability. Administrators are tasked with identifying areas where the agency is exposed to liability and taking action to protect the agency. Thankfully, that’s another area where electronic round systems help. The technology corrects the deficiencies that are related to pen and paper documentation, such as trying to read poor handwriting, reviewing video footage to make sure logs are accurate, finding enough physical space to store the records, etc. Using an electronic rounds system means that the officers are forced to get out of their chair to physically look in, observe the inmates, and scan tags. (Hint: proper tag placement ensures staff move throughout the housing unit and physically walk by each cell.) Electronic rounds systems help to ensure officer proof of presence. For example, GUARDIAN RFID’s SPARTAN 3 handheld device must almost touch the tag to log the jail check. Jail checks and other officer/inmate interactions are documented at the point of responsibility and at the moment the activity occurs. All logs are stored in the cloud that can be accessed at any time by agency staff. GUARDIAN RFID’s Operational Intelligence and Command Cloud technology doesn’t only just show agencies their late checks, but it also identifies the agency’s risk points and gives them the information they need to address and improve those areas.  

Just like every other technology tool, implementing an electronic rounds system comes with a cost. There will typically be initial start-up costs for training, implementation, hardware, and software, plus annual fees. However, having a discussion with those who prepare the facility budget can evaluate the cost of previous litigation (as well as the potential cost for future litigation) and realize that this is a no-brainer. Even if the cost still remains an issue, exploring the Inmate Welfare Fund and searching for other available grants as a funding alternative make it that much easier of a decision. Needless to say, there are pros and cons to every method of documentation. Whether the issue is price, efficiency, manual labor, or other factors, what matters the most is how the pieces are picked up after a serious litigation problem. Use a bad situation as a learning experience to grow from. Start regularly monitoring your jail checks and take proactive steps to ensure all rounds are conducted in a timely manner and properly logged. By doing this, your officers will be more accountable, and your agency will reduce its liability. 

The infamous statement, “Our electronic rounds system highlighted my agency’s late officer rounds and we failed our jail inspection, so we went back to pen paper” is painful to revisit, but let’s be clear: after all, no system is completely fool-proof. If your agency has an electronic rounds system, it is imperative that supervisors monitor and audit jail checks to ensure compliance. You cannot assume all jail checks are compliant. However, an electronic rounds system with advanced audit reporting gives you the ability to quickly and easily identify your risk points, whereas, if you used pen and paper, it would be virtually impossible to audit 100% of your jail checks every single day.

Deficiencies will not be corrected unless they are identified and addressed. For example, let’s say you’ve started to experience regular tightness in your chest and difficulty breathing. To be safe, you schedule an appointment with your doctor and later find out that you have extremely high cholesterol. Your doctor suggests that you change your diet and start exercising daily in order to prevent further damage to your body. Now that you have the accurate information on how to fix your problem, you are faced with two options: listen to your doctor or keep living your current lifestyle. What do you decide to do? This same question applies to what you do when you learn that your team is failing compliance. If your team recently failed a jail inspection due to your electronic rounds system identifying late jail checks, do not disregard the system that identified the problem. If you do, you are just sweeping the real problem under the rug. Switching back to pen and paper is equivalent to putting your head in the sand - which will only expose you to greater danger. At the end of the day, the most important job as a correctional officer is upholding the facility’s safety and security, and we know electronic rounds systems can help you in your mission of getting your team home safe.