Legal Defensibility: RFID Data vs Paper Logs In Court

Cpt. Jeff Jackson
Cpt. Jeff Jackson

Author: Jeff Jackson, Senior Training Specialist at GUARDIAN RFID with 8+ Years Corrections Experience.

I have been training correctional staff for nearly a decade and have used the joke “you are a babysitter of adults” just to get a laugh. In all honesty, deep down inside, I knew it was true.

Corrections Officers are responsible for feeding them, clothing them, and protecting them. How do we do that? By keeping a paper log? Traditionally, jails and prisons across this country have used and continue to use the old trusty paper log; handwritten in all its glory. I firmly believe Officers and Deputies do not have a problem with this until they find themselves subpoenaed into a civil litigation case. In an absolutely perfect scenario, the staff responsible for maintaining the paper log writes every round you completed with accurate times they were started and completed. Now think to yourself, how many times you have had that happen on your shift. None? Once? If those were your answers, at least you are being honest with yourself. For simplicity’s sake, let’s go with a perfect log. The minimum standard for literally every jail in America is only sixty minutes for general population offenders. FULL STOP! Quit saying that! Repeat this in your head, “I do irregular checks, not to exceed sixty minutes.” So I guess that’s why it’s important to log your start time and end time, right? I hate to burst your bubble, but no. You need to prove not only when you conducted your checks, but when you were physically in front of a cell or an individual offender. This is impossible in every scenario while using a paper log. When using digital logging with GuardianRFID, you prove that your facility has officer presence inside your housing units. The reports display times down to the second of when a check was conducted on an offender. If you have ever been grilled by an attorney and had to make an educated guess on when you actually checked on an offender, you can appreciate the simplicity of the GuardianRFID digital reporting.

Next, we will move onto the next complication of paper logging that GuardianRFID helps solve; maintaining the logs and the ease of accessing them. I want you to think about the ridiculously tedious process of finding a copy of a log from your Ad-Seg unit from 2 years ago. Still with me? Ok, great! Now think if you had to find it for one specific offender who was denied his recreation time. Good luck! With GuardianRFID, pulling up a digital copy of the report takes a few quick moments. You can filter by name, date, housing unit, etc. You literally created a digitally tailored report for your county attorney in seconds. The attorneys don’t have time to hit the golf course anymore since we can process their requests so fast. In a best-case scenario, jail files never get lost, supervisor’s always scan their shift paperwork, and officers actually complete the required paperwork. Here in the real world of being a Corrections Professional, it seldom happens. It’s not because we are lazy, most of us at least. It’s because we have a hard job in which you have to continually triage your duty day and quite often, paperwork gets pushed to the bottom of that list.

I recently reached out to an old friend of mine, Director Chad Wicker of Desoto County Adult Detention Center in Hernando, MS. In recent years, Director Wicker has digitized almost every portion of his staff’s logging with systems and software such as GuardianRFID. I specifically asked about any recent litigation against the facility and if digital logging provided any advantages. He spoke of a recent lawsuit filed where an offender was claiming to not have received the medical care he should have been given. Director Wicker stated, “Within five minutes, I was able to pull a digital report detailing every interaction the offender had with medical staff, as well as the offender refusing items such as meals and medication. I could then send it directly to our attorney. He assured me that the case would be resolved with nothing else being needed from my staff.”

If you have worked in corrections for more than a week, you know that the cells are jam-packed with doctors and lawyers(#sarcasm). In my experience, most cases of litigation filed against correctional institutions are for not receiving medical care or even claims of receiving the wrong care. How does your facility track this? Oh, another paper log… GuardianRFID’s digital tracking helps here too! You can digitally track when offenders were brought to medical, what officer brought them, and even what medical treatment was provided to them. All this in a matter of seconds with a few keystrokes on our website, but I bet you would rather spend all day combing through medical records and files trying to defend your agency in court. All joking aside, I have been that person sifting through paperwork for hours, even days, trying to find that one line that proves I did my job. I know I did my checks, my fellow staff know, even that inmate filing the lawsuit knows I did my job, but If I can not prove it with documentation… Most of you know the end of that line, and I bet some of you actually finished it in your head. It’s why I am passionate about digital logging. I have been there, walked the tiers, had inmates lie to my face, and been called a liar by, ironically, a lawyer. Digital tracking of reports and logs adds another layer of protection for you, whether you are a brand new corrections officer or a 25-year vet about to retire, yes, even retired CO’s get sued.