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Where Should Small Facilities with Budget Restraints Invest?

Given the financial restraints faced by many smaller agencies, jail administrators often find themselves restricted in their ability to invest in tools that improve their facilities. What affordable options should small facilities explore to enhance their operations?
Alyssa Pfaff
Alyssa Pfaff
Kenzie Koch | Sr. Marketing Specialist
Jeff Kovar | Strategic Account Executive

One of the most important roles of a correctional officer is to efficiently track the inmates in their custody. From performing timely cell checks to safely transporting inmates to different locations either inside or outside the facility, it is paramount to know where each inmate is at all times. However, the accuracy of inmate tracking can only be reliable when secure tools are used to document all movements and activities.

While many facilities have already adopted advanced tools to meet inmate tracking objectives, it's common knowledge that small-sized facilities typically experience more difficulty receiving approval for implementing new technology. In most cases, the smaller an agency is, the smaller the budget they have to work with. Financial restrictions create an obstacle for smaller facilities to keep up with industry breakthroughs and upgrades, leaving many to perform their operations without the tools needed to accurately track inmates and protect the agency from litigation. 

Being a small facility with a small budget shouldn’t mean giving up the opportunity to advance operations. This blog breaks down cost-efficient tools that smaller teams can leverage to improve the workflow of their facility. 

Eliminating Stressors with Tech Solutions 

Budget restraints affect facilities of all shapes and sizes. Smaller agencies, however, usually have a stricter budget that pushes technology adoption to the bottom of their priority list. Most small-scale facilities consist of 100 inmates or less and are primarily focused on securing bare minimum requirements such as beds, medication, food, and other essentials. As jail administrators of small facilities know, budget limitations can result in magnified stressors such as:

  • Illegible or inaccurate documentation: Many small facilities utilize pen and paper as their primary method of capturing documentation relating to inmate movements, activities, officer interactions, and more. This type of record-keeping is negatively impacted by incomprehensible handwriting, improper paperwork, misplacement, etc. Not only can this result in miscommunication or misinterpretation between staff, but manual documentation is also time-consuming and can lack accuracy and accessibility. An absence of reliable data can be a logistical nightmare for administrators, especially when it comes time to needing documentation to defend themselves in a lawsuit.

  • No visual recording of activities within the facility: A broken camera system, for example, results in little to no visual evidence of what is occurring within the walls. Without insight into the premises, there are no means to physically observe or witness the interactions, movements, or any type of activity taking place in the facility.

  • Inability to track remaining time between upcoming responsibilities: Not owning a countdown tool eliminates the ability to keep track of the remaining time between pending tasks, specifically security rounds. When there isn't a solid system in place to inform staff members of approaching deadlines, there will be more late or missed checks, resulting in poor compliance scores and not-so-pleased administrators.

  • Unavailable communication channels: Not having a single source of communication or centralized location for all of a team's data collection increases the risk of miscommunication between officers. If an event occurs in one unit and officers are unable to alert other officers or call for assistance as quickly, the situation is bound to escalate.

A popular question that small agencies often ask is, “Do we really need to adopt technology?” And after reviewing the stressors mentioned above, the answer may seem quite obvious. However, many small-sized facilities may think that because they have a small population of inmates, they don’t need high-tech equipment to run it. However, technology can open doors for agencies they didn’t know existed. No matter how small the facility, technology advancements can help eliminate stressors by:

  • Reviewing legible, timely, and accurate documentation: Utilizing mobile devices to scan hard tags, inmate wristbands, or ID cards, provides more prompt, clear, and precise data acquisition. Stronger documentation transforms the efficiency and effectiveness of facility operations.

  • Owning physical evidence: A working camera system, for example, provides visual documentation that captures what is occurring within a facility. Say an incident occurs between an inmate and an officer, what better way to prove what happened than visual evidence via cameras displayed directly above the altercation? Physical evidence is a strong layer of protection in any legal dispute.

  • Increasing time management: Officers have their plates full. Knowing when deadlines are approaching helps them prioritize their tasks. Tools such as GUARDIAN RFID's Mobile Compliance Monitor (MCM) can build configurable warnings. These warnings inform staff about upcoming rounds that are due via an audible or silent alert to ensure discrete monitoring (because the last thing officers need is for inmates to know when they’re about to perform rounds).

  • Enhancing communication: Officers need a channel to communicate with each other effectively. Technology instruments such as GUARDIAN RFID's Mission Command unify inmate management in one streamlined location to deliver insights on individual and team performance standards. Tools like these identify opportunities for improvement and pinpoint threats to security, compliance, and legal liability objectives, furthering communication between officers.

Take it from Worth County Jail in Iowa, they have an average daily population of TWO inmates and still believe technology adoption is critical to implement in any corrections environment. 

Less is More

Small facilities with small budgets don’t have to miss out on the opportunity to improve their workflows as there are plenty of budget-friendly options to explore. 

GUARDIAN RFID’s Command Cloud Defender Edition, for example, was built explicitly with small agencies in mind. This package contains two SPARTANs, 20 Hard Tags, access to Mission Command, on-site training, and operational guidance from GUARDIAN RFID’s team. This package supports the needs and capabilities of small-scale facilities without going over budget. The Defender Edition was purposefully built at a price point that smaller facilities can afford without worrying about breaking the bank.

The Defender Edition has the same functionality as the original Command Cloud The only difference is the number of SPARTANS, Hard Tags, and hours of training included. GUARDIAN RFID understands the hurdles that small jails, prisons, and detention centers are exposed to, that’s why the Defender Edition was built specifically for facilities of 100 inmates or less. By providing the same platform at an affordable price, this transformative technology becomes more realistic for smaller-sized agencies. 

Streamlining Small Facilities with Inmate ID Cards

Another route smaller agencies should consider is the adoption of Inmate ID Cards. While ID Cards are not required in small-scale facilities, they help to improve everyday workflows immensely. Inmate ID Cards provide correctional facilities with fully automated inmate identification, tracking, and management proficiencies, further improving compliance monitoring. How? Each Inmate ID Card has an encrypted RFID digital fingerprint, scannable by a SPARTAN to document an inmate movement or activity timestamp. Inmate ID Cards offer numerous benefits to correctional facilities, including:

  • Streamline activity logging: The integration of Inmate ID Cards and Mobile Command XR has drastically improved the efficiency of documenting various activities. These innovative tools have allowed inmate activities and movements such as program attendance, meal passes, and recreation to be recorded in real-time. This is done quickly by simply scanning the ID cards of those inmates who are standing in line for the activity.

  • Inability to falsify or duplicate ID cards: Each card is encrypted with a unique fingerprint to avoid misuse, guaranteeing that inmates are associated with only one card at a time. This added sense of security ensures inmates are where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Empowering officers to fully automate inmate identification, tracking, and management capabilities may not be the primary objective for a small agency. And if that’s the case, they likely won’t even consider learning about electronic inmate tracking systems. On the other hand, an agency that has a growing average population, larger housing units, a high churn rate, and a budget that allows for technology, should put inmate identification tools at the top of their list. 

Although having inmate identification hardware may be more practical for larger facilities, small and medium-sized facilities still get results from leveraging these tools. While size can impact the usage of inmate identification hardware, the value doesn’t change. No matter the shape or size, every facility still needs to be fully aware of what’s happening with its inmate population. Therefore, every facility has the opportunity to optimize and streamline its operations by utilizing technology advancements to its advantage.