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Best practices: technology in corrections.

Editor's note: The following is taken from the American Correctional Association (ACA) publication, Best Practices: Excellence in Corrections and has been edited.

Technology continues to emerge as a critical issue in corrections. It is now and will continue to be a valuable tool to enhance staff safety and the security of both correctional institutions and the general public. It also may serve as a cost saver in certain applications.

Less than 10 years ago, it was not uncommon for entire correctional agencies to be void of computers, technology review committees or technology products of any kind. Strolling through an ACA conference exhibitors' area a decade ago, one found plenty of construction materials, fencing, clothing, even food products, but little emerging technology. Now it takes visitors every minute that the exhibit area is open to view the technology, and even then they may not see it all. The use of technology will continue to grow exponentially in the future.

Sometimes resistance to change or fear of the unknown prevents an agency from looking at emerging technologies as a solution or part of a solution to a particular problem. The key is to evaluate technology for its most appropriate uses and apply it accordingly. Technology is not the cure-all for the many problems faced by corrections today. It can, however, serve as a valuable tool to improve safety and security, cost savings and time savings for staff.

The following five programs were selected by ACA's 1998 Technology Committee as "Best Practices" in the area of correctional technology. The committee chair was Kevin Jackson, a former senior program manager with the National Institute of Corrections in Washington, D.C.

Network Telemedicine in Louisiana State Penitentiary

The telemedicine program under way at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) is an outgrowth of the Louisiana State University (LSU) Medical Center's telemedicine initiative, which began in 1995. The goals of this project are to:

* Reduce the number of inmate transports from LSP to the secondary and tertiary health care service centers;

* Reinforce the security parameters and performance objectives of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections; and

* Reduce the physical presence of inmates in the general civilian population served by hospital-based clinics.

The targets for cost savings included:

* A reduction in the transportation expenses of vehicle use and fuel, and overtime for security staff;

* A reduction in administrative and logistical efforts on the prison site for scheduling and moving inmates; and

* An anticipated future potential savings to be generated as a result of earlier intervention in medical cases prior to conditions developing into more serious situations.

Through this program, the population at LSP is receiving medical services in several specialty areas in a fashion comparable to previous methods, but in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

Background

LSP at Angola is the largest state facility, housing roughly 5,000 inmates. The facility is located along the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 40 miles north of Baton Rouge. The majority of its inmates are classified as long-term residents.

The prison compound maintains a fully staffed treatment center and satellite infirmaries at the 18,000-acre institution. The medical resources include seven physicians; 38 nurses; a lab; a pharmacy; an X-ray unit; a 30-bed inpatient center; and satellite infirmaries at various camps throughout the prison.

Currently, inmates proceed from an infirmary to the treatment center to address their medical needs. Once it is determined that the progression of health care requires services from one of the off-site hospitals, the inmate is scheduled for the next available appointment at the appropriate clinic. This holds true for initial clinic examinations and follow-up care for chronic, postoperative and recurring conditions.

In the past, approximately 3,000 inmates from LSP were transported to the secondary and tertiary hospitals for medical-related reasons during a 6-month period. An analysis of this total reflected that two out of three of these transports were directed to the Charity Hospital in New Orleans, and the other third went to the Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge. The driving time to New Orleans from the Angola area is approximately two hours. The driving time to Baton Rouge is approximately 60 minutes.

Implementation

The Telemedicine Program, based at the LSU Medical Center in New Orleans, began in August 1994. With a mission of facilitating statewide development of medical telecommunications programming, the goal was to improve the access to and quality of health care for all residents of Louisiana. Begun as a cooperative project between the LSU School of Medicine and the Louisiana Health Care Authority, now the LSU Medical Care Health Care Service Division, this program has expanded from its original three sites to a 10-site network spanning the I-10 corridor. Tertiary consultations are provided by LSU specialists.

Since August 1994, 750 patient encounters have been held using 15 different LSU specialists, both adult and pediatric. Major specialties using the network are neurology, psychiatry, orthopedics, dermatology and cardiology. The feedback from both patients and physicians has been positive, with access to specialty care and saved travel time cited as the most important benefits of the encounters.

This network currently uses compressed video equipment running at both half and full T-1 bandwidth. Using a variety of specialized patient cameras, comprehensive patient examinations can be performed, including diagnostic cardiac echocardiology and ultrasound imaging. High-definition monitors allow the patient and the physician to interact as if they were in the same room. With the primary care physician and the specialist both involved in a medical consultation, pertinent history can be discussed and interventional therapies agreed upon. Follow-up encounters, scheduled on a regular basis, give the specialist an opportunity to evaluate interventions and make any necessary adjustments in a timely manner. Store and forward (in other words, videotape) videoconferencing furnishes a health care provider with a record of the patient for viewing by a specialist at a later time.

Continuing education programs for physicians, nurses and auxiliary health care providers form another component of the telemedicine program. Recognizing that it is often difficult for medical personnel to travel to metropolitan areas to attend seminars and keep up with current trends in medicine, the telemedicine network attempts to bridge the educational gap across the state by transmitting educational conferences, such as grand rounds, to various hospitals on the network.

The Beginning

At the start of fiscal year 1997 to 1998, the medical staff at the Earl K. Long Hospital, a part of the LSU Medical Center in Baton Rouge, entered into a contract with the Department of Public Safety and Corrections to provide a comprehensive plan for inmate health care. The project centered on the population at LSP and included reliance on telemedicine as a significant component in the overall delivery of health services. Under the direction of Dr. Karam, the Internal Medicine Department at the Earl K. Long Hospital developed several clinics for LSP, including diabetes, hypertension, HIV, pulmonary, case management and chest conference clinics.

Results

To date, the telemedicine program at LSP has conducted a total of 52 clinics and processed 273 inmate encounters -- Including at least one inmate from the death-row population. The impact of this operation on the routine transportation activity of the institution is still being measured. Although it is apparent that the overall volume of inmate transportation has been reduced, a detailed analysis of the number of vehicle runs and staff requirements is incomplete.

Of the clinics scheduled, approximately 10 percent have been canceled for nonmedical or nonprison-related reasons. Generally, the cause of the failed clinics has been service disruptions to the telephone circuits or equipment problems. Changes to the procedures used for linking the LSP to the Earl K. Long Hospital are expected to reduce some of the network problems. It is anticipated that increased familiarity with the videoconferencing equipment by the end users at both LSP and the hospital will help minimize the equipment-related difficulties.

Conclusion and Future Plans

Future developments call for an expansion into additional clinics, efforts to increase the volume of participation and the use of store and forward technology. Also, plans are under way to offer educational classes for LSP staff using the videoconferencing equipment.

In addition, given the initial results of the telemedicine project, plans are being made to expand the deployment of telemedicine into other correctional facilities in the state. At this time, the David Wade Correctional Center has been participating in telemedicine for more than 2 years. Correctional administrators at the Dixon Correctional Institute, the Washington Correctional Institute and the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women also are exploring the concept for use in those settings.

Videoconferencing illinois

The Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) also is turning to videoconferencing. Stateville Penitentiary currently is linked to a statewide network with sites at Springfield, the central office in Chicago, other state facilities and the federal circuit courts. Each center is designed to serve a multitude of applications. Numerous opportunities are available for using this technology, including: employee training; business meetings; court hearings; and parole and deportation hearings.

Through this technology, the department is able to link all its sites together or in any combination. The videoconferencing equipment allows for multiple conferences to be conducted at the same time. The DOC also has the ability to connect to other agencies, universities and entities nationwide with the same video capability, even though they may have different vendor equipment.

Development and Design

The videoconferencing equipment has been installed in a secure setting and is completely interactive. The operation of the video network is the full responsibility of the department.

The design employs a single customized cabinet holding dual-monitor configurations. The lower unit of the cabinet houses all electronic equipment; the upper unit houses the monitors and camera. The customized cabinet was constructed by the DOC from materials that met prison specifications.

Implementation

Staff scheduling for the use of the video network is coordinated by a videoconference coordinator at each site with a central coordinator located in Springfield. All scheduling is done on a first-come, first-served basis. Emergency scheduling is permitted only if authorized by the department director. Any scheduling to arrange an inmate's appearance in court is coordinated between the institution and the legal process video coordinator in Chicago. These individuals, in turn, coordinate the use of the rooms with the central video coordinator. Those staff designated as video coordinators and various selected employees receive training in the basic use and maintenance of the equipment and the procedures to be followed when problems arise.

Results

The V-Tel Corp.'s large group conferencing system has provided unmatched conferencing flexibility for the department. It has allowed staff to personalize the configuration to fit their needs. Most centers have been designed to provide access to staff and inmates for purposes such as immigration/deportation hearings, parole board hearings, interviews and meetings with legal representatives, staff training and facilitation of inmate appearances in federal court. The use of videoconferencing has impacted significantly the safety and security problems associated with the transportation of inmates by staff and their physical presence in courtrooms and the community. It also has reduced labor costs and the ancillary expenditures normally incurred by the DOC.

Conclusion

It is the intention at Stateville to take full advantage of the technological innovations and applications of videoconferencing for use in a correctional setting. Reducing contact with inmates and limiting transportation of inmates within the general community significantly reduces the possibility of escapes; it does not jeopardize security. In fact, it provides the opportunity to evaluate and implement changes in existing practices that may result in a safer and more secure work environment.

Integrated Facilities Information in Texas

Texas has experienced rapid growth in its prison system and is leading the national trend of increasing facility construction for offenders. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) used prototypical designs for maximum and medium security facilities and state jails.

The system capacity increased from 40,000 in 1987 to just less than 140,000 in 1996. The growth in the capacity, reflected in ali aspects of budget expenditures and utilities, is no exception. The utility expenditures rose from $15,000,000 to $60,000,000 during the same time period.

The expansion program at TDCJ was nearing completion in 1995 and the result was 34,000,000 square feet of prison facilities to maintain and operate in the most cost-effective manner. TDCJ had grown to be the largest state agency and the No. 1 energy consumer among state agencies. In January 1995, a partnership began with the Texas State Energy Conservation Office to build a proactive utilities and energy department within TDCJ that would reduce costs and save natural resources.

Development and Design

The method used to track utility expenditures, equipment maintenance and repairs on the prison units was labor-intensive and ineffective. The analysis of energy consumption and energy costs was difficult due to the manual entry of utility-billing data on ledgers. Operations and maintenance had similar practices, with equipment lists recorded on cards at the individual prison unit along with the corrective and preventive maintenance work orders. Access to this information is critical to energy-resource management. Additional information can be gained by metering individual buildings within the prison complex. Operations and maintenance have a parallel story. The need to allocate capital and human resources in the rapidly expanding prison system was critical.

With the long-term commitment of management to continual improvement, the metering and trending systems provide data on which to base resource allocation decisions and improve processes. The need for a computerized integrated information system was identified, and a decision was made to build a TDCJ Facilities Integrated Information System. The modules of that system included:

* Utilities and energy monthly bills;

* Metered data - energy profiles;

* Computerized maintenance management system;

* Finance;

* Design and construction; and

* Inventory

The intent was to build each module with links to a core database so information could be accessed easily by all departments. Users would have unimpeded access to the information they needed to complete their jobs.

A pilot program of 25 prototypical units, comprising approximately 25 percent of TDCJ's square footage, was kicked off in the summer of 1995. Thirteen medium security prisons (1,000 beds) were included in the program, along with five state jails (2,000 beds) and five transfer facilities. Prototypes were chosen for ease of implementation and for analysis.

Implementation

A metering subcontractor was hired to train two TDCJ staff electricians to install watt-hour transducers that would meter electrical consumption. The 8 meters installed on each unit are connected to a data logger for remote metering through a modem. Only electrical consumption was metered since the facilities were operational, and this would have the least impact on operations and security. Also, electrical costs are 50 percent of utility costs and monitoring of these costs would provide the greatest return on the initial investment. The staff electricians have completed the installation at 11 of the 25 sites. The rest will be online within the year.

The Monitoring and Analysis Program (MAP) is a software package that automatically polls all loggers through a modem from Huntsville and downloads the data weekly. Hourly weather data are polled weekly to provide an additional component needed for a comprehensive analysis of energy consumption and energy loads. MAP is an integrated system that combines energy consumption monitoring at remote locations, data storage, analysis and reporting.

Utility Billing Database

Texas A&M Energy Systems Lab (TAMU) was contracted to develop a utility billing audit program in the Microsoft Access database that was available at the TDCJ Facilities Division. The TAMU team assessed the database requirements after meeting with the accounts payable personnel responsible for all utility bills. Within 2 weeks, TAMU determined that Microsoft Access was not the long-term solution to the development of a comprehensive integrated database. So it continued to develop utility accounting software in Microsoft Access while the Facilities Division Data Resource Team researched the acquisition of a more robust database. The intention was to rewrite the Microsoft Access code in the new application in the next fiscal year, using it as a bridge or a fix.

Students from the Sam Houston State University were hired through funds provided by the Texas State Energy Conservation Office to input the utility bills that had amassed throughout the fiscal year. The initial application had some major bugs, however. After several crashes, the application was stabilized and data were stored. The need to provide consistent data streams for like utilities, so that comparisons and standards could be made, was brought to light early in the data entry process. A conversion factor was built into the application so that all consumption units would be standardized. The implementation process for this utility accounting software brought insight to the initial design process and produced many changes that were vital to the integrated information system, mainly the new and more robust database software.

Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)

A team of maintenance personnel from various crafts was charged with tagging all equipment using a coding system that would establish standards across prototypes. Each unit received hardware. Unit staff were trained as other team members tagged equipment. The Huntsville staff received additional training so that users could interact and network with one another. The resistance by some maintenance staff to try automation was and still is the biggest hurdle.

Results

The weekly data have provided load profile information. This enables staff to investigate low-cost or no-cost operations and maintenance measures. These include such things as night setback of air-conditioning systems and shifting hours of the laundry operation, which are both simple cost-reduction measures. Each building will have a profile that compares to the overall unit profile, thus identifying the impact on monthly electrical costs.

Two metering technicians, originally trained by an outside subcontractor, are now administering in-house training to six more metering technicians. One metering technician compiled an installation manual, which the facilities division electrical engineer reviewed. The most impressive result has been the increased computer literacy by the metering specialists. The technology transfer and upgrade of skills are a win-win for the agency and its employees.

Utility Billing Database

The utility billing section has identified billing errors that would have cost more than $690,000 in the past 2 fiscal years. The availability of electronic data has allowed for the development of comparative graphs so that the wardens can see how consumption has changed. Currently, monthly reports that include nine graphs are sent to the wardens involved in the pilot program. The utility billing database has made preparing the annual management reports less time consuming. The fiscal year 1996 reports were ready within 2 months of the fiscal year closeout as a result of this project.

CMMS Application

The data are now being analyzed for comparisons between like units and the impact of age on the corrective workload order. On the unit level, the results have been varied based on the staff use of this powerful tool. Junior Lapaglia, unit maintenance supervisor at the Terrell Unit in Livingston, Texas, has used this tool to improve his operations and reports. He says, "The monthly report prepared through CMMS for Warden Treon gives an accurate account of our maintenance department and the work performed by the employees throughout the course of the month. It gives us an account of where the maintenance budget is going and which departments are having the most calls. We have solved grievances, Level 1 and Level 2, through this program and have determined whether the abuse is inmate or employee. In some instances, repayment for abuse is being collected."

He adds, "The employees are the key developers of CMMS at the unit level. As a supervisor, I must depend on them for input. "If, in the future, each department must establish a yearly budget, the maintenance department will have a comprehensive history of each department's maintenance cost and we can determine how much of their yearly budgets should be applied to maintenance problems."

Conclusion

The rapidly changing field of computer technology has been both a blessing and a curse during this process. The good points are that the costs go down over time and the machines are faster. However, the time period between the original research and the approval "through channels" often results in conflicting hardware and software issues because of evolving technology. Nonetheless, the effort has been worthwhile because information is being made available that will help meet the goal of continual improvement and resource allocation. Data provides information that is used to gain knowledge. Knowledge can generate wisdom after many "challenges" - all of which have an impact on the bottom line - have been met.

Felony Offender Reporting System in Washington

Since 1995, the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System has been providing online access to publicly disclosable information concerning felony offenders. The information can be located by name and date of birth, social security number, the Washington State Patrol identification number or the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) identification number.

The information available to the public includes the offender's demographics (e.g., age, height and weight); supervising office, officer and dates of supervision, if in the community; conviction history; dates of incarceration; institution; and projected release date, if incarcerated; identification as a serious, violent or sex offender; and aliases. The information that is available only to law enforcement includes the offender's mailing address, gang affiliation, FBI number and incarcerated behavior characteristics, such as infractions.

The Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System concept originated in 1991 in response to an identified department need to share information with the Washington Office of the Administrator for the Courts. Community corrections personnel within the department needed access to information in the administrator's files for the courts to conduct presentence investigations and to monitor offenders under supervision.

Court clerks and other users of the office of the administrator of the courts' system needed access to information in the DOC's files to locate offenders owing court fees. In addition to responding to information requests from the office of the administrator for the courts' system users, department personnel also were responding to requests from federal criminal justice agencies (e.g., the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the Immigration and Naturalization Service), local criminal justice agencies and the general public. The volume of requests from all the sources combined was running at about 2,500 requests per month.

An agreement was reached whereby the department obtained free online access to the office of the administrator for the courts' files in return for agreeing to provide its system users with online access to department file information. Both organizations felt that once the agreement was fully implemented, there would be a significant time savings for both the DOC's personnel and the various offices of the administrator for the courts' system users.

Development and Design

At the start of the development, a decision was made to meet, within reason, departmental needs (e.g., cut down on time spent responding to inquiries), the needs of the larger criminal justice community and the disclosure needs of the general public. To determine these needs, staff reviewed ongoing requests for information. They compiled and reviewed a tentative list of data elements with a sample of potential users, including representatives from local law enforcement, court clerks, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders and jail administrators.

The resulting list of data elements was reviewed with the department's assistant attorney general to get an opinion on the disclosability of each. To simplify administration, a decision was made to only make available those data elements which fell into one of two groups.

The first group included data on offenders and their sentences, information that was always disclosable. The second group involved data that always were disclosable to law enforcement, but not to the general public. Data that did not fall into one of these groups were excluded from consideration. Since implementation, a third category has been added for data disclosable to state government agencies but not to the general public. Such data already were available to law enforcement.

Implementation

The implementation of the system consisted of writing six new inquiry screens, and then providing online access to the screens for personnel not from the DOC. in response to an analysis of potential system users, three primary means of accessing the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System information were provided.

The office of the administrator for the courts, which serves court clerks in all counties and also provides access to their system to various businesses and other users, has a direct connection to the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System from its central computer.

The Washington State Patrol added a new inquiry code to the network it provides for accessing, among other things, criminal history files, drivers' license information and outstanding warrants. Queries, which come from users of this network, are considered to be from law enforcement and are provided access to the "law enforcement only" data in the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System.

Other state agencies - or anyone having access to the Washington State Department of Information Services computer - also carl gain access to the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System with prior approval from the department. At least one member of the news media has taken advantage of this capability.

Results

The free and full exchange of information that was envisioned between the office of the administrator of the court and the DOC is occurring. Authorized users of the office of the administrator of the court's system access the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System without the need for department identification. Personnel from the DOC access the office of the administrator of the court's systems without the need for the office of the administrator of the court's identification.

All users of the Washington State Patrol Law Enforcement Network access the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System without the need for the DOC's identification. As a result, the parties involved are realizing significant time savings by not having to research and respond to as many requests from one another. Even more, the desired information is now available in a more timely manner.

After more than a year of operation, the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System is responding to 1,300 queries per month from the office of the administrator of the court's system users, and about 14,000 queries per month from law enforcement. Department personnel believe that a number of these queries concern ongoing criminal investigations in which detectives wish to determine if a previously convicted felon was incarcerated or "on the street" when a crime was committed. Thanks to checking with local law enforcement during its design, the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System query screen is formatted specifically to answer this question.

The availability of the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System has removed the necessity for the department to develop programs to meet the special needs of other state agencies. For example, access to the system has been provided to support enforcement officers in the Division of Child Support in the Department of Social and Health Services. This reinforces the officers' efforts to minimize state costs by tracking parents who are behind in payments. Upon request, access also has been provided to the offices of federal agencies located within the state.

Conclusion

The benefits to the department from time savings alone have far exceeded the cost of the development of the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System. By keeping the design concept simple and having only three classes of users, administrative costs for the system are minimal. Nonetheless, making potential users of the system aware of its availability, and providing them with operating instructions, a description of each screen and the data elements it contains, has been a continuing challenge.

Law enforcement, criminal justice and other users now have access to and the benefit of information that was formerly unavailable. A steady increase in the number of queries is expected as more potential users become aware of the Washington State Felony Offender Reporting System and the information it contains. At some point, handling a larger volume of queries may become a cost issue.

The sharing of information within the criminal justice community has been encouraged by the state Criminal Justice Information Act Executive Committee, and is in direct support of one of its business requirements. Further sharing within the community is expected.

Intranet Technology for Dissemination Of Policy and Legislation, CSC

As is the case with all correctional organizations, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) operates under a huge umbrella of policy and legislation. On occasion, ensuring that this vital yet dynamic information is available to every employee who needs it in a timely and effective manner has proved to be a daunting task. A paper-based distribution system is cumbersome, prone to error and can be anything but timely. On the other hand, having the information available in an electronic format only is useful if the people who need the information have an effective vehicle at their disposal for retrieving and viewing it.

CSC prides itself on being an adopter of information technologies that support its corporate mission. During the past several years, CSC has established a robust network of 8,000 desktop computers, linking 170 institutional, parole office and administrative locations across the country. It recently deployed a corporate intranet, called InfoNet, across its entire network. Intranets employ the same technology as the Internet ("Web" technology), and have proved, in their short period of existence, to be cost-effective and process-effective vehicles for distributing information throughout an organization.

Even though InfoNet was designed to allow for the dissemination of all kinds of information, its most important role has been to become CSC's primary vehicle for ensuring that all staff have access to the policy and legislative documentation that governs its operation.

Development and Design

The initial design specifications for the corporate intranet called for technology components that would ensure efficient access to InfoNet from all sites across the country. The design defined the base content that would be acceptable prior to its implementation.

CSC's governing policy and legislative documentation consists of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and Regulations, the commissioner's directives and various operational manuals, instructions and standing orders. From a content-collection point of view, the challenge was not great - All of these documents already were available in electronic format. During the past several years, CSC's information distribution format had evolved from a hard copy mailed across the country to copies transferred electronically and printed locally. The objective of InfoNet was to eliminate the need for printing by providing a computer interface that allowed for search, retrieval and direct viewing.

An important decision made early on in the developmental phase of InfoNet was that the "owner" of any particular document would retain the responsibility for the currency and accuracy of its content. This ensured that the staff responsible for content were an integral part of the overall process. In addition, content committees were formed at both the national and regional levels. These committees continue to be active and provide invaluable feedback for ongoing improvements.

A key element of the design was a "link" that was constructed between InfoNet and CSC's primary business application - the Offender Management System. From any screen within the Offender Management System, the user has instant access to policy and legislative information contained on the InfoNet. While this feature currently is not context-sensitive, work will begin shortly on making it so.

The real challenge in the design and development of InfoNet was at the technical level. Internet technology is still at an early stage and constantly continues to evolve. The addition of InfoNet to CSC's network could not decrease the performance and/or availability of other existing corporate applications using the same infrastructure. To maximize the chance of success, intranet design information was gathered from other government departments and agencies, the private sector and suppliers.

One of the design solutions that came out of these discussions was the use of proxy servers to dynamically "replicate" the information stored on a central intranet server sent out to CSC's five regions. Designers believed that the use of proxy servers was a pro-active way to minimize the impact of additional network traffic. Since these proxy servers also could be used as regional Web servers, this allowed for the efficient distribution of regional and local content (such as regional instructions and standing orders that are derived from the commissioner's directives).

Implementation

The full implementation of InfoNet began Feb. 14, 1997. This national rollout was preceded, though, by a 6-month pilot study at CSC's national headquarters. The pilot phase provided the implementation team with many important suggestions for improving both the "look and feel" of InfoNet and its content, it also allowed for the assessment of the proper level of training that was required. From this, it was decided to use both formal training and extensive online help. Formal training was made available in both a classroom setting and through "expert users," on a case-by-case basis.

The feedback from users was considered crucial at both the pilot stage and after national implementation. For example, even though a great deal of effort went into the implementation of an initial search technology for electronic documents, the decision to use this product was revisited based on user feedback. The product was not well-received by the user community and had to be replaced with another search engine that was easier to use. The lesson learned was that the "best" tool, if not well understood, provides little functionality.

No discussion of the implementation of InfoNet would be complete without highlighting the team aspect of the project. CSC was fortunate enough to have professional and dedicated resources assigned to this project - A project manager; a production supervisor; two production workers; a quality assurance specialist (very important to establish and maintain the credibility of the intranet content); and Web specialists for the engineering and ongoing production of the site.

Results

The benefits from the introduction of InfoNet can be seen at different levels. In the short term, CSC now has a new and effective medium for the communication of policy and legislation. Within minutes, updated information is available from coast to coast to all 8,000 networked computers. Notification of new information is handled through the "What's New" feature of InfoNet. The ability to search the site means that access to required information for the conduct of any particular job function is just a few keystrokes away.

Over the midterm, the requirement for the production of a hard copy has been reduced, and continues to decrease, as growing numbers of staff become comfortable with a new way to access and view information. This not only has led to a reduction in costs, but it makes CSC a responsible corporate organization because of its protection of the environment.

As for the future, the introduction of Web technology at CSC has opened up many other opportunities for the effective use of technology. Some of the most promising technologies currently being evaluated include: data-based information dissemination; computer-based training on a mass scale; electronic bulletin boards; and electronic commerce.

Conclusion

As with the implementation of any new technology, it is important to avoid pitfalls, learn from problems and build upon previous successes. Several factors formed the key to the success of CSC's corporate intranet as a medium for the dissemination of policy and legislation. These factors included working as a team; senior management supporting the project; the effective marketing of the project; the training offered to staff; the availability and the quality of CSC's basic network infrastructure; and last, but not least, involving the end users in providing constructive feedback.
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Morrison, Steve
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Jul 1, 1999
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