Sunday, March 9, 2014

Every penny you spend in technology increases the efficiency of your agency

At his first Board of Corrections meeting as director of the state Corrections Department, Robert Patton said tackling Oklahoma’s rising prison population is a top priority, reported The Oklahoman.
Patton, who worked more than two decades for the Arizona Department of Corrections, started his new job in Oklahoma in mid-February. He told the board he has established a population management team to look at ways to reduce inmate numbers.
After the meeting, Patton told reporters the team is looking at a variety of ways to reduce the prison population, including looking at agency policy to make sure the department is following statute and processing inmates through the parole process adequately.
“So, in other words, if the courts have sentenced you to a certain sentence where you can earn credits or whatever it is to say you can be released this certain date, are we making sure that you are released on that date,” Patton said.
A bill working its way through the state House of Representatives would allow early release credits for prisoners now required to serve 85 percent of their sentence.
Patton would not comment on whether he supported the bill, but he said it made sense and was a practice used in the Arizona prison system. He said he also is considering ways to improve the parole monitoring system to make sure offenders do not re-offend.
Many records within the Corrections Department are still kept on paper, and Patton acknowledged one way to improve the offender management system is to move to a computer-based model. However, he also noted such a change is not inexpensive.
“Every penny you spend in technology increases the efficiency of your agency,” Patton said. “Right now, I’m looking for quarters under the couch, but through appropriate planning and through appropriate budgeting I think we can address those things.”
County jails across the state are housing inmates waiting for a bed to open up in a state or private facility, and Patton said he would like to shorten the length of time those inmates spend in county jails, relieving stress on jailers and saving his department precious dollars.
“If we can do appropriate population management and not spend all those millions on county jail beds, maybe we do have some money to go over and address some IT issues.”
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