The Facility Operations Challenge: Improve the Environment

By G.F. Guercio, Contributing Editor

The areas in a facility impacted by operational factors are profuse. Effective and efficient are the goals of systems that manage
operations data with new software developments. Also making way for improvements is software that adapts to new legislation that changes the structure of offender sentences and programs. Inmate well-being is tied to this as well as incentive food programs, and the three-times-a-day food-cost hurdle crumbles with cost-saving operations. Safety—a huge concern for any facility—starts with the ever-present issue of reducing contraband, and evolves with new legislation affecting deaf communications, as well as inmate management and tracking, and watch tour security checks following the latest guidelines.
Since the inception of direct supervision, agencies have struggled to get the officer “out from behind the desk” and into the dayroom interacting with inmates, thus reducing tensions and increasing safety, says I.E. Newton III, president, Black Creek. “A serious issue facing all correctional facilities is the fact that watch tour/safety/security rounds are often not conducted in compliance with facility policy, or not being conducted at all. Instead of supervising by mingling and being in direct proximity to inmates, officers remain tethered to their housing unit control stations.” 
Developments in technology incorporate more advanced functions into less equipment so staff can perform more efficiently, making jails safer, he says, explaining that Black Creek’s Watch Tour Manager (WTM) and Personal Detention Assistant provide the same control and communications functions as a control station, allowing staff to supervise an entire dayroom untethered.  Comprehensive functionality can include: door, intercom, CCTV, utilities and electronic shift log and watch tours/safety checks/security round controls. 
Using a mobile device, the WTM application alerts correctional staff when a tour/check/round is scheduled to start and guides the officer through the tour.  Supervisory staff can monitor in real time, noting compliance, and generate reports filtered by exceptions so that corrective action, if required, can be initiated.  Newton says, “With such real-time notifications, problems are resolved faster, accountability is improved, reporting and documentation is all electronically stored, and the largest benefit is increased overall security and safety for both inmates and staff.”
The same type of monitoring is needed when dealing with operating systems, according to Greg Westbrook, president of CGL Facility Management. And, he notes, “If you’re not gathering operations data, you can’t guarantee the effectiveness of the facility or its infrastructure.” Most contractors or agencies use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), however, regardless of the system chosen, none capture all aspects of facilities maintenance operations. “There are still financial systems that have expense data; fleet management systems with assets, maintenance, and fuel information; utility systems with demand data; timekeeping and payroll systems with human resources data; and so on.”
CGL is developing a technology solution that captures data from all these disparate systems, integrates the information into a single interface, and applies analytics for meaningful, management level analysis. “Our initial focus, during the current beta testing stage, is on infrastructure components. We are working on expanding the platform to help our clients analyze all facilities operations components. This new service will add substantial value to our clients’ existing legacy systems by allowing real-time analysis of information that usually isn’t compared to realize cost savings,” he says.
Westbrook acknowledges one of the biggest fears of any organization or department is implementing a new platform. But new interface technology allows facilities to utilize all their existing systems—CMMS, building management systems, financial systems, payroll, etc. “Their existing programs are rolled up into one interface that analyzes the information created by these varied systems. While there may be some adjustments in what or how data is captured, the major disruption and expense of retraining is avoided.”
He furthers, “As these data integration systems make information easier to gather, problems become evident earlier and are easier to address. Additionally, facilities’ operations teams will spend less time proving there is a problem and, therefore, will be able to focus effort on process improvement to eliminate the problems.”
Improving processes is the underlying enhancement to offender management systems (OMS) that serve new directives. “Legislative trends are contributing to a decline in the numbers of persons under institutional confinement and are resulting in more persons paying their debts to society under community supervision programs,” says John Lowry, senior product manager, Product Management at GTL.  The more significant trends include sentence adjustments, addressing the specific needs of each offender, and putting emphasis on education and reentry planning. He explains that recent enhancements to GTL’s OMS are based on these changes.
The OMS Work Release module allows facilities to intake and release inmates under defined work release programs. “Participating facilities allow offenders to go to their places of employment and then return at the end of the day or on weekends to serve their time.” Lowry says GTL’s module offers greater flexibility through sentence lengths with credits applied (time served, program attendance, work credits, fees paid, good conduct), conditions applied (Mandatory, Pay or Stay, Weekender) so that inmates can best be served. 
“GTL’s OMS also provides more flexibility in defining the types of programs—educational, vocational, work programs, etc,” he furthers.  “Again, this is to serve facilities by ensuring their wards are getting the programming needed to keep them from being repeat customers.”  And, he adds, “Case workers can define individual offender goals in OMS along with the tasks needed to achieve those goals.  Such goals can be educational, vocational, housing needs, employment, transportation, and more.” Offenders can even learn to enter their own Requests, Grievances, and Commissary Orders into OMS via a tablet or kiosk. 
Secure Video for the Deaf
In other legislation that impacts facility operations, court decisions over the past two years have mandated the installation of Residential Video Relay Service (VRS) for deaf inmates.  “While having the best intentions in mind, the courts’ attempts to enforce compliance with the ADA and other regulatory acts such as the NRA (National Rehabilitation Act) and PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act), have introduced unintended security issues into the corrections environment,” says Chris Talbot, CEO of Tidal Wave Telecom.
By offering a secure alternative,  he notes, “In addition to immediately improving the morale of deaf inmates and eradicating costly lawsuits against correctional facilities by deaf inmates, we close dangerous communication security holes in prisons and jails that are created when facilities install residential video relay.” Their SecureVRS is currently installed in over 20 percent of the state Departments of Corrections, in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and jails and prisons nationwide. 
To get facility decision-makers to understand the difference between secured video relay and residential video relay, Talbot says: “The latter is extraordinarily dangerous unless it is secured—it’s literally the equivalent of allowing a deaf inmate to have access to Skype.”
This year the company’s solution expanded to include corrections-grade video relay client/ kiosk, VRS call manager, VRS recording, as well as call management in the cloud which allows prisons and jails to reduce capital intensive purchases in lieu of a smaller, recurring monthly fee.  “In some cases, it is the difference between a prison or jail being able to deploy secured VRS for inmates and not being able to do so,” he notes.
Identify, Track & Manage Inmate Whereabouts
Again focused on improving safety, Ken Dalley Jr., president & senior quality leader, Guardian RFID, details information about the ForceField reader, which automatically identifies, tracks, and manages inmates and sends encrypted data to the Guardian RFID Cloud and Mobile Command for real-time operational awareness. ForceField readers can be deployed in a number of areas, such as court transports; program rooms to identify inmate participation in a specific program type, including arrival and departure time; recreation yards to identify exact time of arrival and departure; inmate worker areas including kitchens, laundry, and more, to identify arrival and departure; and medical visits.
Dalley cites another area where it can be deployed. “The Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Bartow, Florida, manages approximately 3,300 inmates daily in its jail system and uses ForceField readers in its Central Booking location to track the progression of the booking process, identifying when an inmate arrives to each booking station, such as pre-medical screening, fingerprinting, etc. All booking activities are then broadcast onto a TV screen dashboard for communication, populated by data collected by ForceField, Guardian RFID, and its Jail Management System.”
The Guardian RFID platform automatically identifies inmates, locations, and monitors movements from any device, including SPARTAN, the Android scanner from the firm running Mobile Command software. The fixed radio frequency readers identify inmates by RFID Wristband or RFID Card, he says, support PoE (Power over Ethernet) installation, and are encased in indestructible, weatherproof enclosures.
Increasing safety also entails security issues of everyday objects. Erin Howell, product manager, Bob Barker Company, says. “We’ve received feedback from our customers that inmates are removing the blades from razors, which is a big safety concern. It’s hard to detect when this happens because razor blades are easy to replicate with gum wrappers, foil, and other items. Also, another big issue is that inspection times for tampered razors take up a large amount of officers’ time.”
To counteract this, Bob Barker invented the Maximum Security Colored Razor constructed with a vibrant green blade. “The colored blade makes it more difficult to replicate than a standard stainless-steel blade and reduces the potential for incidents for a safer facility,” says Howell. She adds that another advantage is the ability to identify the vibrant green color to speed up collection and inspection times, allowing officers to spend time on other tasks. “Combined with the clear razor head and handle, the [new model] makes it virtually impossible to hide contraband.”
Another continually-recurring operational concern is cost control. According to Tracey Mumford Komata, vice president, National Food Group, surplus or repurposed foods, available at discount, offer operational assistance in meeting budgets and enhancing menus, typically saving 5 percent to 30 percent.
“While these items may display slight imperfections by consumer industry standards, they are wholesome, fit for consumption, and guaranteed by the manufacturer,” she says. Examples include food with slight cosmetic flaws, revised formula or test run/prototype products, discontinued brands or sort-outs for size discrepancies.
Based on experience in the field, Komata recommends the menu be written in a manner allowing flexibility and substitutions: Instead of naming a specific item, a menu can simply reflect a general term. Review storage space and consider items with the greatest impact on budget, she adds. For example, if freezer space is small, reserve frozen surplus foods for center-of-plate protein items, which offer the greatest savings.
Desirable Branded Goods
When it comes to food and inmate well-being, Debbi Drewry, director of Marketing, Union Supply Group says, “If the programs encourage good behavior and the products bring the inmates some contentment it sounds like a good thing for the prison environment.” She says an exciting side of the business is designed to provide inmates the comforts of home: The inmate package program. “In many states if an inmate is in good standing, they may be allowed a package purchased from family or friends but shipped from us as a secure vendor meeting all the safety and security needs.”
She notes that, in comparison, commissary offerings are small and price sensitive. The inmate package programs offer different choices than the commissary, mostly branded items, such as Nabisco Double-Stuff Oreos, Johnsonville sausages, Pantene hair products, high-end Nike shoes or an Under Armor t-shirt, just to name a few. “Not your typical commissary items, but the inmates of course love them.”
Whether through inmate well-being or cost-saving measures, safety protocols or upping the criteria to meet new guidelines and legislation, all these high efficiency solutions answer the challenge to improve the environment at our facilities. J
For further information:
Tidal Wave Telecom, 916.751.5500,,
Black Creek Integrated Systems, 205.949.9900,,
Bob Barker Company, Inc., 800.334.9880,,
CGL, 786.409.7000,
GUARDIAN RFID, 855.777.7343,;;; 
GTL, contact_form,
Union Supply Group, 310.604.4626,,
National Food Group, 858.207.9825,,