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After an FBI investigation revealed trouble within the ranks of prison officers, a new software suite was purchased to catch contraband connections.
The Georgia Department of Corrections seized about 23,500 contraband cellphones between 2014 and 2015, a headache for its Investigations and Intelligence Teams.
Responsible for looking into all incidents and crimes across the department’s 32 facilities containing around 36,000 inmates, the teams required intelligence-led policing to handle the case load.
At the end of June, GDC purchased Auckland, New Zealand-based crime software developer Wynyard Group’s Advanced Crime Analytics and Investigations Case Management solutions, which scour data to connect dots between seemingly isolated incidents indicative of underlying issues.
“Intelligence-led policing allows the department to address problems, rather than react to them,” Derek Brown, Wynyard’s Americas vice president, said in an interview. “The software looks at common visitors and shift patterns of prison officers that may be more lax on security or involved in smuggling this type of stuff in.”
This is a particularly vexing challenge in Georgia, where in February 49 current and former corrections officers were charged in seven federal indictments with prison smuggling and accepting bribes to protect drug deals. About 130 prison employees, prisoners and co-conspirators have been charged in the FBI-led undercover investigation since January.
With GDC growing, a more robust tech suite was needed to serve as the backbone of efforts to reduce prison violence, detect and deter contraband and mitigate gang activity while restoring the system’s image.
On top of that, prisons are increasingly handling only violent inmates as nonviolent offenders are dealt with in less severe ways by the justice system, Brown said. A smaller number of corrections officers must control a larger, more aggressive prison population in many states.
GDC is the first department of corrections to hire Wynyard to help it identify the greatest threats and better allocate resources, the company previously working only with state and local law enforcement.
Incident investigators collect evidence electronically in the form of word documents, PDFs, photos, and videos with a broad suite of capabilities at their disposal to help develop cases. The analytics help identify upticks in incidents and can link several inmates with contraband cellphones based on their commonalities.
“It’s about looking at trends and tying them back to individuals,” said Kyle Lamborn, Wynyard’s federal and state programs director.
The software can also assist corrections managing prisoners, keeping gang members out of the same cells.
Cell shakedowns generate information corrections can use to crackdown on prison crime.
“Software for the sake of software will not produce results. Departments must have a clear idea about the problems they’re trying to solve,” Brown said. “The solution lies within the data they’re already capturing.”
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.