California Prison Realignment Spurs IT Projects

The number of inmates in California state prisons may soon be dropping, but tech upgrades to keep up with the changes are on the rise at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

California is reducing the number of inmates at its state prisons, but the decrease won’t necessarily drop the workload at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The agency is knee-deep in changes to IT systems to help keep tabs on prisoners who will soon be on the move.

A number of CDCR computer systems will be impacted by the state’s Public Safety Realignment Plan. The plan shifts certain offenders to county jails starting on Oct. 1 and is part of a broader effort to meet a U.S. Supreme Court decree that California must shed 33,000 state inmates over the next two years.

Systems such as the CDCR’s Revocation Scheduling and Tracking System (RSTS), CalParole, Law Enforcement Automated Data System, and the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) application will need adjustments to meet the data exchange needs of both the state and the counties that will inherit the paroled inmates.

Joe Panora, the CDCR’s CIO and director of enterprise information services, explained that as prisoners who have been convicted of non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual offenses are moved out of state prisons, the agency will need to update the RSTS with information from the local governments that are monitoring those individuals.

The RSTS is used to facilitate the tracking of parolees, to schedule hearings and to report revocation actions.

Andrea Rohmann, CIO of enterprise information services at the CDCR, said the challenge is that California’s 58 counties aren’t necessarily using the same system as the state, so the ability to do a seamless data exchange in order to keep the information in the RSTS current is a challenge.

Panora agreed and added that the corrections department will need to change some of the functionality and fields in the RSTS to track where revocation hearing locations will be — entering in the right county code, what the “return-to-custody” time frame is for a prisoner and other items.

“We’re making some modifications and enhancements to our systems to track and accept these types of indicators,” Panora said. “How counties are going to notify CDCR is all being worked out.”

CalParole — the tracking system used for supervisory purposes by CDCR parole agents and other law enforcement entities to access demographics, photos and information on parolees — also needs a few tweaks.

California AB 109, the legislation that created a funding mechanism for prison realignment earlier this year, requires that the CalParole system have post-release community supervision units added. The change will also be reflected in the Law Enforcement Automated Data System.

In addition, although no actual programming changes need to be done to the COMPAS application, sharing its information is a challenge that CDCR officials said needs to be addressed. The tool is used to assess the risk and needs of adult offenders in an automated system, with the intent to reduce recidivism.

But not every county uses COMPAS, so for counties that don’t, the CDCR is working with them on what standard data elements can be shared. Panora said the information in COMPAS would “probably be the biggest area of initial data sharing” between the state and counties.

One of the first local governments the state is working with on this is San Francisco County.

“We’ve sent them our data structure and a copy of our data sharing agreement,” Panora said. “They are going to look at that for any concerns or issues and identify what data elements they would want us to exchange with them. We’ll do that with each individual county.”

Rohmann emphasized the need to stay collaborative with agencies on the county level. She said that from the state’s perspective, the state is standardized, whereas the counties aren’t. So it was important to use that collaborative approach to come up with the best way to exchange data.

“The real key is to determine to what degree do we automate an actual interface into some of these systems,” Panora said. “Right now, we’ll probably extract the data and send it to [the counties] versus their ability to come in and interface live and do the download themselves. Their systems are all different, so we have to work it out on a county-by-county basis.”

Other Advancements

The CDCR has been focused on standardization and consolidation for a while. The agency has rolled out its enterprise resource planning software, which Rohmann said is supporting financial, accounting, budgeting and supply chain management for procurements and contracts. It’s also a big part of the CDCR’s human resources activities.

Overall, Panora said that the CDCR has more than 36,000 desktop PCs connected to its network. It also has an additional 19,000 non-networked educational devices and 3,500 network devices such as hubs, servers and databases.

But the agency is placing an emphasis on virtualizing. On the server side, the CDCR is shutting down the location it uses in Rancho Cordova, Calif., and will have its entire server operation hosted at the California Office of Technology Services — the main state data center — by the end of the year.

“We have 70 racks and 800 servers,” Panora said, “and when we get done and are at the state data center, we’ll be in three racks, in a high-density virtualized environment. From a power consumption and support model perspective, the efficiencies are going to be there. We’ll end up with savings. If you look at the footprint by itself, there will be substantial cost avoidances.”

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