Data warehousing and database integration are two areas which are emerging as dominant solutions to data management. Where corrections data management tools have traditionally been used to store data according to "what is happening today," G2 has identified a clear trend of corrections departments implementing systems which will illustrate patterns and track a particular program's success.

Biometric imaging and electronic inmate tracking mechanisms -- which allow low-risk offenders to remain in the community -- are growing in popularity and are under consideration by numerous corrections departments.

Videoconferencing systems are growing in popularity among corrections departments and are being utilized in a variety of applications, especially at the county level. For example, video arraignment permits court hearings to take place directly from the county jail, while telemedicine allows medical exams of prisoners without ever leaving the facility.

Finally, tools such as electronic data capture and internetworked applications enable information regarding cases and offenders to be entered and shared quickly.

Perhaps the most far-reaching trend in today's corrections market is the move toward information systems which integrate department communications, security and computerization. Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, for example, is considering smart card technology to integrate an inmate's tracking device with commissary, medical, and classification information. And Knox County, Tenn., is considering information systems that will integrate law enforcement and detention requirements.

OBSTACLES TO IMPLEMENTATION

Despite the fact that, on average, more than 75 percent of state justice funds are dedicated to corrections, a lack of funding is the primary obstacle to corrections departments' ability to employ technological solutions. With funds at a premium, corrections officials must often prioritize immediate concerns -- such as infrastructure, transportation, housing, security and administration -- over information technology expenditures. Moreover, because corrections departments receive the vast majority of their operating budgets from general state funds, they must compete with education and human services agencies for their budgets.

OUTLOOK

Despite the barriers, corrections departments are clearly beginning

to embrace technology solutions. While relatively behind the curve compared to other state and local government agency segments, corrections officials are acknowledging that technology is a critical tool which can help ease the tremendous burden the departments face.

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