How to Digitally Transform Your Jail


We’ve all heard the age old saying: if it wasn’t documented then it didn’t happen.

Over 80% of correctional facilities in the United States capture their event logs on paper. While paper may have worked on Paul and Timothy in the New Testament, it does not work today. Nowadays, judges expect you to show up to court with surveillance footage and computer generated reports. Nowadays, your officers claim they did their security rounds, but you have no time or energy to hold them accountable.

In order for your jail to survive in today’s culture you need to stop capturing event logs on paper and convert to electronic logs. Digital Transformation. How can your jail successfully make the change to electronic logs? Follow these 4 steps:

Step 1: Collect better event logs

Take a walk over to your Max unit and tell your officer that all 15-minute observations need to be electronically logged from now on. You know what that officer will tell you? “Well you know, I’d rather write my observations on a clipboard at the cell, instead of having to run back to a computer.” Did you hear that? The officer isn’t saying that electronic logs are dumb, the officer is saying that paper logs are better because they are quick and in-person. Your officers want to log their observations at the cell window, while they are looking for living, breathing flesh. Well guess what? You can have electronic logs that are also quick and in-person.

For quick and in-person logging, think mobile devices. Mobile will allow your staff to log their rounds and well-being observations at-the-point of responsibility. This doesn’t just go for security rounds, but for all event logs: headcount, out-of-cell movements, supply passes, and more. So when you hear “electronic logs,” you shouldn’t think about computers, you should think about mobile devices. Sure, all of your logs need to eventually reside on a computer somewhere, but that doesn’t mean that logs need to be originally captured on a computer.

Your staff will be more comfortable with mobile. In 2016, TechCrunch reported that, for the first time, there were more mobile users on the internet than desktop users; 51.2% of internet usage came from phones and tablets. Since then the gap has only widened, which means that your staff are probably more comfortable with mobile devices than desktop computers.

Click here to read more on Why Jails Should Switch To Mobile Inmate Tracking

Benefits of mobile inmate tracking in jails

  1. More descriptive logs
  2. More accurate timestamps
  3. Reduced radio chatter
  4. Proof of face-to-face interaction
  5. More immediate insight

What to look for in a mobile solution

  1. Predefined phrases or hands-free options for logging
  2. No aspect of the data collection workflow should depend on computer input
  3. Wi-Fi connected syncing is an absolute must-have
  4. Support for scannable inmate-worn identification
Click here to read more on Inmate-worn identification: Wristbands vs ID Cards

How are jails implementing mobile inmate tracking

There are many mobile scanning solutions in today’s market, including SPARTAN™ by GUARDIAN RFID.® No matter which solution you choose in the end, it should be so user friendly that your staff become addicted to using it for every single log.

Once you’ve chosen your mobile vendor, be sure to work in close partnership with them in developing a strategy to counteract your staff’s resistance to change. Ask your mobile vendor for on-site training.

If your mobile vendor offers an online library of video tutorials, then share the videos with your line staff. Visual aids will make the system more tangible, and is therefore the best way to garner buy-in from your officers.

Give your supervisors a voice in the matter. Ask your mobile vendor to share policies and procedures from their other customer sites. Share these documents with your supervisors and let them voice their concerns.

The goal is simplicity and user friendliness. The EASIER it is to capture event logs, the more your staff will WANT to capture.

Click here to read about 2 Common Mobile Scanning Misconceptions

Step 2: Make event logs more accessible

Congratulations! Thanks to mobile logging, you are now sitting on a gold mine of data, with tons of descriptive, face-to-face event logs. The question now is how you will go about extracting insight from that data. The answer is this: make it fast and easy for your team to visualize the logs.

CLOUD IS A MUST HAVE - In order to simplify the integration between your mobile application and web applications, it is crucial that you pick a mobile vendor that will host your event logs on a cloud server. Common cloud providers include: Kamatera, Google, Adobe, IBM, Rackspace, Oracle, and SAP. Some vendors may choose government approved cloud servers such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS. In the end, any cloud provider will offer several layers of redundancy, disaster recovery and enterprise-grade maintenance.

Cloud hosted platforms are powerful because they give you access to your data from anywhere, anytime, with any connected device.

Click here to learn more about Interfacing Your Cloud Vendor With Your JMS

Benefits of a cloud-hosted jail

  1. Mobile logs appear on the web in real-time
  2. Ability to see logs from any connected device
  3. Ability to securely see logs from anywhere with internet connectivity, at any time

What to look for in a mobile/cloud vendor

  1. Real-time insight; mobile logs should appear on web within seconds of capture
  2. Cloud access; no remote-desktop software should ever be needed to access your data
  3. Data ownership; your vendor should never hold your data hostage

How do jails get on the cloud?

There are many mobile/cloud solutions in today’s market, including The Command & Control Platform™ by GUARDIAN RFID.® No matter which solution you choose in the end, it should close the gap between line-staff and command staff; giving everyone real-time access to every single event log.

Ask your mobile/cloud vendor to provide a suite of data visualization tools; staff should not only have access to their logs, but should also have the ability to display their logs on summary dashboards, and even TV screens. Visualizations might include:

  • a compliance monitor for your security rounds,
  • a real-time grease board for your out-of-cell movements, and
  • a dynamic summary tables for real-time headcounts.

Ask your mobile/cloud vendor for audible alerts on all of your mission critical dashboards so as to keep the workflow top of mind among your staff while they conduct their regular floor activities.

Some jails may only have enough computer workstations for their booking officer and supervisors. In this case, your officers will need to receive audible and visual alerts directly on their mobile devices. Alerts might include: keep-separate rules, transport restrictions, and special status flags. All of these alerts should appear on the officer’s mobile device - at the point of responsibility.

Click here to see 4 mistakes that officers make during their security rounds

Step 3: Turn event logs into actionable insight

So, you’ve gotten your officers addicted to the process of capturing clean event logs. On top of that, you have gained real-time access to the logs. What’s the next step? The next step is to analyze the logs so as to discover dangerous behavioral patterns among your staff. This can be done with operational intelligence.

Operational intelligence is any software that an organization uses to expose workflow inefficiencies. Operational intelligence software is made up of visual dashboards and notifications.

Some jails will use operational intelligence to grab 3-7 days worth of electronic event logs, and then - with statistical analysis - discover predictable patterns of behavior that hinder compliance with jail standards. A jail might use operational intelligence to analyze their security round logs. The software will look at all of your security rounds and then show predictable patterns, for example: “15-20% of your jail’s security rounds are late every other Tuesday, during the 0800 hour.” These types of insights will provide your supervisors bite-size topics for their next shift briefing.

The goal of operational intelligence is simple: show your team information that cannot be ignored.

Benefits of operational intelligence in the jail setting

  1. Officers are more aware of their subconscious habits
  2. Supervisors have data to back up performance reviews
  3. Officers feel like they are all working toward one, quantifiable goal

What to look for in an operational intelligence vendor

  1. A portfolio of dashboards that are currently in use at other jails
  2. A willingness to build interfaces with other enterprise solutions
  3. Diagnostic features on each and every dashboard

How jails are using operational intelligence to SYNTHESIZE issues

There are many operational intelligence solutions in today’s market, including Operational Intelligence™ by GUARDIAN RFID.® No matter which solution you choose in the end, it should show your officers information that cannot be ignored.

The first step to detecting behavioral patterns in your event logs is to synthesize your event logs. Most jails achieve this through on-screen dashboards. A dashboard is a one page summary of a large data set. Your operational intelligence vendor is responsible for creating and tailoring these dashboards to your jail’s specific layout and procedures.

This dashboard is NOT designed to show you granular information such as officer names or time stamps, but rather all event logs in a given workflow. For example, a “Security Rounds Dashboard” would answer questions such as: What percentage of my jail's rounds were late over the last 2 weeks? What are the top 3 housing locations most in need of improvement? What are the top 3 shifts most in need of improvement?

In displaying a large set of data on a single screen, you will instantly start to see patterns. You might notice that your round compliance drops every day, right around meal time, and then again during shift changes. Don’t stop there! Synthesizing data is just the beginning.

How jails are using operational intelligence to DIAGNOSE issues

Once you have a synthetic view of a particular workflow and have identified large sweeping patterns, the next step is to arrive at the root causes.

Ask your operational intelligence vendor to build diagnostic features into each and every dashboard. Most jails prefer a diagnostic feature called “drill-down.” Drill-down is a dashboard feature that allows the user to click on a data point and dynamically display more descriptive information about that datapoint.

How would you drill-down, for example, on your round compliance dashboard? Let’s say your rounds data shows “Alpha Pod” as having the worst compliance. So you click on “Alpha Pod.” All of a sudden, a dynamic list of officers appears, giving first & last names to Alpha Pod’s underperformance. As you read through this officer list, your mind races with theories, and you can almost hear them tell you their excuses for being late. So you continue on your diagnostic quest, and you click on “John Smith,'' the officer with the worst compliance. Again your screen changes, this time drilling down further into John Smith’s specific timestamps, on-shift supervisor interactions, correlating floor activities, and more. This ability to dynamically drill-down is what we mean by diagnostic analysis. This is how you go from big picture to actionable insight.

Step 4: Turn actions into habits

In the previous sections, we covered how to convince your staff to capture thorough event logs. We covered how to give your team real-time access to these logs. We also covered ways of gaining using data to affect change. In this section we will cover how you as a jail administrator can make those changes last.

In order for your digital transformation to take hold organically, it needs to be rooted in a culture of excellence. We’re not trying to make your officer’s work easier, we’re trying to make your officer’s work effective.

In this section, we will cover how jail administrators can create a culture of excellence around their operational intelligence.

Benefits of a culture of excellence

  1. Staff are proactive in compliance
  2. Staff go to supervisors with workflow improvements
  3. Shift briefings become more goal-oriented instead of policy-oriented

What are some jails that have a culture of excellence

How jails are creating a culture of excellence

You might think that - as a jail administrator - you are doomed to forever babysit your staff, to constantly battle apathy with punishment, or to train-and-replace. This does not have to be the case. The truth is that officers do not actually want to suck at their jobs. Officers don't naturally tend toward complacency, they naturally tend toward purpose but become complacent if they don't find purpose. Officers want to be considered professionals - experts in their field. You can give them purpose by showing them how respectable the corrections professional truly is.

Give your officers a sense of belonging. Every jail has motivational phrases hanging in the break room. Every jail talks about care, custody and control. Every jail reminds its staff about public service and the conscious choice to wear the uniform. While these symbols and creeds might be great for morale, they don’t always help create a sense of belonging. In order for your officers to feel like they belong, they need to feel like their actions are building toward something great.

Supervisor accompaniment

Get your supervisors away from their desk. The more your supervisors accompany your officers, the more your officers will feel like they are a part of something bigger.

Teach your supervisors how to use their operational intelligence dashboards and how to create “SMART” goals for their staff (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). Tell your supervisors to be optimistic and to emphasize small wins during each shift briefing.

Your front line supervisors are the backbone of forming good habits among your officers. Supervisors give your officers a sense of direction, which in turn makes the officers feel like their actions are building toward something great.

Jail Administrator accompaniment

Get away from your desk. You are the jail administrator, and officers see you as the decision maker - the ultimate responsible for all of the bad things and good things that happen to the team.

Walk around your facility and shadow your line staff one-on-one; choose times when the supervisor is not around. Make sure that you talk to your officers about the facility’s goals, and even how the facility’s compliance stacks up against other facilities.

Listen to your officers. Ask them what workflows should change, what next week’s goal should be, or where they see themselves in the future.

Paul Baze is the Director of Sales at GUARDIAN RFID. Baze began his career in corrections in 2008 at the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office in Flagstaff, AZ.