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Paper-based system was a “logistical nightmare” for the state’s corrections department.
LOS ANGELES — With more than 130,000 inmates behind bars, California is home to one of the nation’s largest prison populations. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has been under pressure in recent years to reduce its overall population and improve its efficiency in handling the massive number of cases the state receives each year. A major part of that improvement effort includes transferring state prisoner records to a digital format.
This week, the CDCR announced that it signed a five-year, $116.5 million contract extension with HP Enterprise Services to continue managing the state’s Strategic Offender Management System (SOMS).
“For the number of inmates we house and process, a paper-based system was a logistical nightmare,” SOMS Project Director Russ Nichols said in Tuesday’s contract announcement.
Palo Alto-based HP is handling a number of services for California’s SOMS, including transferring the state’s historic database of prisoner information. The company said that providing Software as a Service (SaaS) options for the CDCR benefits both the state judicial system and the prisoners themselves by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s record system.
Creating an online database provides some obvious advantages: expediting the process for transferring inmate data and allowing access to records from any of California’s 34 state prison facilities across its broad 163,696 square mile landscape. The coordinated database system will also help streamline inmate case management plans, allowing California to standardize prison population management practices across the entire state and enable real-time inmate tracking throughout the system.
Digitizing inmate case files should also theoretically help inmates as well. For example, allowing universal access to CDCR documents could eliminate the time wasted to physically transfer inmate files and other critical documents.
Typically, government agencies and nonprofit institutions have lagged behind the private sector in making the transition to digital databases and other cloud services such as email, accounting and office applications. A 2014 Digital States Survey awarded California a “B+” ranking for its implementation of technology services in government sector, a slight dip from its “A-“ ranking in 2012 but still in the upper echelon when compared to other states.
During the SOMS implementation, HP says it digitized more than 200 million documents into the new consolidated database.
Moving inmate files to the cloud will also help ensure that the information is protected in case of a natural disaster, including fires or earthquakes. Part of HP’s digital transfer plan includes creating backup files of all inmate data, meaning that even in the unlikely event that a major server was damaged, destroyed or even temporarily taken offline, state officials would still have real-time access to the information.
“Uninterrupted, real time access to offender information is critical for corrections agencies to enable policy outcomes, improve operational effectiveness and create administrative efficiencies,” Brian Kitzmiller, vice president, State and Local Government, HP Enterprise Services, said in a statement. “The implementation of SOMS demonstrates that technology can play an important role in the effective and efficient administration of justice while making prisons and jails safer for both corrections officers and inmates.”