When it comes to inmate complaints, nothing is off limits. With so much time on their hands, inmates feel the need to express their negative opinions regarding just about anything, including their meals.

Although it would make everyone’s job easier, it’s impossible to say that there’s a way to eliminate meal complaints and grievances entirely. However, there is a way to make handing those complaints a bit quicker and easier—proper documentation.

This simple concept has a positive impact on the correctional officers and staff members. Tracking meals, if done correctly, will save time, money, and complaint-induced headaches.

This article will help give you a better understanding of inmate meal documentation and how it can be done using GUARDIAN RFID. We will discuss:

  1. Why track inmate meals at your correctional facility
  2. Best practices for tracking inmate meal offerings
  3. How to track inmate meals with GUARDIAN RFID

Why Track Inmate Meals at Your Correctional Facility

Documenting inmate meals follows the, “if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen” mentality. Like with anything else, inmates can and will complain or file grievances on whether or not they received meals or if it was the right tray for their given health or religious restriction. Tracking and monitoring the meals given to inmates makes it quicker and simpler for a correctional facility to squash meal-related inmate complaints.

With proper documentation, a facility can quickly prove whether or not an inmate was offered and either accepted or declined the meal. Unsubstantiated claims are dealt with much more quickly with the presentation of a clear, accurate meal report.

Tracking meals also helps save money by informing kitchen staff the correct number of meals needed for the facility. If the documentation is showing that only 80% of the inmate population is accepting meals and 20% are declining, the kitchen can reduce their production by 20%, saving both time, wasted food, and money.

Best Practices for Tracking Inmate Meal Offerings

1. Collect as much inmate data as possible

Keeping track of whether or not an inmate accepted or declined a meal is better than not documenting anything at all, but that’s not always sufficient when handling inmate complaints or grievances. The more data that can be provided about the inmate and overall situation, the more defensible the facility.

Collecting the following data categories significantly increases defensibility against any inmate meal-related complaint:

  • Date
  • time
  • Housing unit / location
  • Inmate name
  • Accept or decline
  • Officer number
  • Photo (when necessary)

Why use camera when tracking meals?

Mobile Command Photo FeatureThe ability to take photos is only possible when using a mobile tracking solution that uses devices such as the iPod, iPad, or SPARTAN. However, most of the websites for those platforms don’t indicate whether or not they provide users the ability to take photos, even during meal offerings. GUARDIAN RFID does provide that capability.

It isn’t necessary for photos to be taken of every meal offered--that would just add time and a minimal amount of value. Instead, the GUARDIAN RFID team suggests that officers take photos when inmates with meal restrictions are given their trays. Doing so helps document that inmates requiring vegetarian, Kosher, or Halal received the correct meals. It adds another layer of defensibility if inmates claim to have not received the correct meal.

For this to work, officers must know which inmates have special restrictions. This could come in the form of a written list, but the easiest way is if the mobile tracking system is integrated with the facility’s offender management system. The integration makes it simple for an officer to click on the inmate’s profile within the platform and see an inmate’s meal restriction.

2. Track and document inmate activities with mobile devices or scanners

Benefits of electronically tracking inmate meals

  1. Accurate documentation that includes multiple categories of data
  2. Resolve meal-related inmate complaints more efficiently
  3. Resolve meal-related inmate complaints more quickly
  4. No need to sift through paper logs
  5. Heavy lifting is done on the part of the mobile device and computer

The best way to ensure accuracy is a mobile solution because it collects data at the point of responsibility--the exact moment when an inmate chooses to accept or decline a meal. Mobile solutions, such as GUARDIAN RFID, also allow officers to take a photograph of the meal tray for added documentation.

When using an electronic documentation system, all pertinent inmate information is collected during the time of the meal offering. Without the need of manual entry, the probability of errors or tampering in significantly decreased.

Electronic logs provide more accuracy than manually logging. For example, an officer may be able to fill out the date, time, location, inmate, accept / decline, and officer on duty, but there’s no way to say with 100% certainty that the written log is accurate. Paper logs can be filled out incorrectly, illegible, backdated, or otherwise tampered with.

Even typing into an offender management system leaves room for error. It’s unfair to assume that every officer will be able to memorize each inmate’s meal acceptance or decline with complete accuracy. If there are some extra notes regarding an inmate’s meal offering, it’s difficult to guarantee that it was documented within the system.

3. Use inmate wristbands or ID cards for accurate identification

Utilizing inmate ID cards or wristbands to document who accepted or declined meals is another way to improve documentation accuracy. Although some officers may be able to easily identify each inmate, using a form factor for confirmation further increases defensibility if there was ever to be an inmate complaint.

Proving the data was collected from an inmate credential needs to be done using a mobile device. Before indicating meal acceptance or refusal, the officer would scan the inmate’s wristband or ID card. After the scan, the meal acceptance and any other collected information would be attributed to a specific inmate.

Learn more about inmate wristbands and ID cards here.

4. Use inmate tracking system with quick and simple reporting for jail staff

Your chosen tracking solution should also provide quick and simple reporting. When a meal complaint arises, staff should only need to spend a handful of minutes finding necessary documents to dispute inmate complaints.

Meal related complaints or grievances aren’t necessarily at the top of the administration’s priority list. They want to get them taken care of quickly and move on to more important tasks, such as ensuring inmate and officer safety. The easier and quicker it is for staff to retrieve meal reports, the quicker the complaints can be resolved.

5. Look for an inmate tracking system with filter options in the reports

Meal reports should be able to quickly provide various filters or views depending on the type of information needed by administration. It is best when officers or staff can pull inmate-specific or housing-specific reports--staff don’t need to be wasting their time sifting through irrelevant data.

For example, if an inmate files a formal grievance stating that he wasn’t offered lunch for the past three days, staff is only concerned with viewing meal data on that one inmate. Ideally, they would have a report that shows any meal offering with that specific inmate, excluding all others within the facility. Doing that with manually written or typed logs would be immensely time consuming.

Avoid wasting staff time and effort by looking for a solution that provides quick reporting access and filter options so administration can focus on only the most important data.

How to Track Inmate Meals using GUARDIAN RFID

To document inmate meals, GUARDIAN RFID Warriors use a combination of SPARTAN (rugged Android device), Mobile Command’s Meals Module, Hard Tags, and inmate credentials such as ID cards or wristbands (optional).

What your correctional facility can track with the GUARDIAN RFID Meals Module:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Housing unit / location
  • Inmate name
  • Accepting or declining of meal
  • Officer number
  • Photo (if applicable)

How to use the Mobile Command Meal Module

Logging inmate meal offerings is efficient and accurate with GUARDIAN RFID. After a quick selection of the Meals Module and scan of the pod’s hard tag, a complete list of inmates within the housing unit appears. From there, the officer has two options to indicate an inmate accepted or declined a meal--manual entry or scan a credential such as a wristband or ID card. Although we suggest the use of a credential, it's not required.

To take a photo, an officer would click the camera icon located on the main screen near the inmate’s name, snap the photo, and save. That photo is available through OnDemand and is attached to the meal acceptance of that specific inmate.

Once all inmates are offered meals, the officer can hit the “save” button on the SPARTAN. The Meals Module will then close, the cloud icon on the bottom left with turn green then back to white, and all logged information is sent to the cloud. Upon arrival in the cloud, staff members can access all data from the facility’s OnDemand account.

GUARDIAN RFID inmate meal reports and logs for corrections staff

All the reporting can be found by logging into your facility’s OnDemand account. Your activity feed will display the number of inmates who accepted meals out of the total inmates within the pod (example: 30/35 accepted meals). It will also display the number of inmates who declined meals (example: 5/35 declined meals).

Running a meals report on a specific housing unit will populate a full list inmates, indicating who accepted or declined and display photos if applicable. This type of report can be seen below. Staff can also run an inmate-specific report to see the meals that the individual accepted or declined

What do the asterisks (*) in the GUARDIAN RFID reports mean?

When looking at the reports, you will notice asterisks. Log entries will display either *, **, or ***. The number of asterisks helps to identify officers’ proximity of the inmates and level of data collection.

In the meal report, two asterisks indicate that the officer manually entered the inmate’s acceptance or refusal of the meal. Three asterisks indicate that the officer scanned the inmate credential to either accept or refuse a meal. This provides more certainty that the officer had face-to-face interaction with that inmate.

GUARDIAN RFID Warrior: Franklin County Jail Pennsylvania

Franklin County’s 500 bed jail facility in Chambersburg, PA utilizes the photo feature within GUARDIAN RFID for meal documentation. Officers will take a photo and use the patented WordBlocks to log whether inmates have eaten 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% of their meal.

WordBlocks are predetermined, clickable buttons containing words or phrases commonly used by the facility's jail staff. The words and phrases can be customized by each facility. Franklin Co. chose to create a "Meals" nested WordBlock. This means that once an officer selects the "Meals" button, four buttons indicating 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% appear.

Since the photo is being taken after the meal offering, officers must log this data through the Cell Check Module rather than the Meals Module. Logging this information is as simple as:

  1. Scan inmate’s wristband
  2. Click the "Meals" WordBlock
  3. Select 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% for the amount of meal eaten by the inmate
  4. Scroll down and select "Take a photo" WordBlock
  5. Snap a photo
  6. Click "Save"

That data is then sent to the cloud and available through the Franklin Co. OnDemand account. The reports and photos can be accessed at any time from anywhere with internet access.

Have more questions? Contact us today to learn more about GUARDIAN RFID and how we can increase legal defensibility and efficiency in your facility.