N.B.’s correctional services improves data capture

A New Brunswick-developed correctional management system may soon be the accepted norm cross Canada.

New Brunswick Community and Corrections Services, in partnership with Canadian integrator xwave,

has ended a three-year journey to complete its Client Information System (or CIS). The system was recently awarded the 2002 Canadian Information Productivity Award for information management.

The project was born out of sheer necessity, says NBCS director of programs and planning Michael Boudreau. The Canadian justice system demands that offenders serving sentences of two years or less be detained in a provincial jail. Sentences over two years must be served in federal penitentiaries. The split creates the first challenge, he says, especially when dealing with career criminals who may go through both the provincial and federal correctional systems.

New Brunswick has also another challenge in that its corrections department is under the management of the Department of Public Safety; courts are under the management of the Department of Justice. Add to that its provincially managed gun registry and victim services, and you end up with a really complex system made even more so because of lack of free-flow of information. Information that was quite often, Boudreau says, essentially the same.

“”We’ve eliminated dozens of forms, all of which have the same redundant information: name, address, and serial number. So when you’re transcribing that dozens and dozens of times, and remember a lot of these folks we’ve got for life, there’s huge amounts of forms,”” he says.

The move from paper to a Web-based system, done in stages over the three years, has not only reduced administrative overhead and increased overall efficiency, but has allowed for better crisis management, Boudreau says.

“”Unfortunately, part of our regular routine is dealing with medical emergencies like heart attacks and drug overdoses, attempted suicides and disturbances, or escapes,”” he says.
“”You can imagine when we do have a medical emergency or an attempted suicide, or disturbance, we need to know right now what’s going on in that jail.””

CIS allows for real-time incident reports, including the number of offenders involved, their medical history and pictures to be available to the parties who need them.

In case of an escape, the fully bilingual system makes it possible to transmit offender information and digital photos to the police quickly, something which was not so easy to do pre-CIS, Boudreau says.

“”Before you’d have to root out a picture, you’d have to get on your horse and trot it over to the police station, or whatever we used to do,”” he says.

The automation of many administrative tasks means that corrections personnel now have more time to spend on offender rehabilitation and re-integration programs, says xwave director of systems integration Tom Demerson.

Because the information being transmitted is critical and quite sensitive, security was a key issue during development. Information traveling within the same government agency is protected by firewalls, Demerson says. Once it has to travel to an outside partner it is encrypted to ensure safety.

Data backup, another critical aspect of the system, is managed by xwave. The system, implemented on an Oracle database and running on Unix servers, resides in a secured datacenter, Demerson says.

“”There is a variety of monitoring that we do to the platform and database administration activity such as frequent back-ups of data and offsite storage,”” he says. “” Redundancy has also been built into the platform.””

This innovative approach to information sharing is not only winning the New Brunswick government the praise of the federal government and business community, but it’s also turning into a profit maker.

Under the agreement struck with xwave, the New Brunswick government owns the intellectual property rights to the CIS, but has allowed the company to offer the product to other agencies. The system has been chosen by the State of Maine Department of Corrections in the U.S., and has received interest from several Canadian provinces, Demerson says. Any jobs created as result of the new CIS contracts are going to remain in New Brunswick, making the proliferation of the system profitable for both partners.

The system is being used and promoted as a national model for information sharing by the Solicitor General of Canada’s integrated justice initiative.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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