• October 22, 2002
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Taking A Bite Out of Crime in Florida

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A prisoner attempting an escape at a Florida correctional facility is up against a lot more than armed guards, electric fences, and unforgiving razor wire. Beneath the cold, hard exterior of the 52 Florida correctional facilities lies a concealed network of intelligence operated by the Florida Department of Corrections that provides critical, up-to-date information on inmates and the facilities they live in. The Florida Department of Corrections is not the only government entity in the public sector warming up to CRM. A recent AMR report says government spending on CRM is on the rise. According to the report, called The Customer Management Applications Report, 2001--2006, the government sector, while not considered an early technology adopter, advanced its CRM spending from $88 million in 2000 to $116 million in 2001, representing a 32 percent year-over-year growth rate. This, at a time when the private sector temporarily put the brakes on big technology commitments like CRM. In fact, government's ability to publish, interact, and transact with citizens is up, despite the dot-com fallout, according to analysts at consulting firm Accenture. "I thought I might see some slowness in the level of improvement given the dot-com slowdown, but I didn't. I saw in all countries a level of improvement, with the average level of improvement between twelve and sixteen percent," says Vivienne Jupp, global e-government managing partner at Accenture. The SAS CRM solution at the Florida Department of Corrections, which was implemented in February 1996, could not have come at a better time for Bill Bales, chief of the Bureau of Research and Data Analysis at the Florida Department of Corrections. In July 1999 Florida Governor Jeb Bush implemented his 10-20-Life legislation in an attempt to discourage violent criminal behavior. The legislation enforces mandatory minimum prison sentences by requiring violent offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their 10-year, 20-year, or life sentence before being released on parole. Governor Bush's plan is working. Violent crimes in the state of Florida are down, Bales says, but the triumph does not come without complications. The prison inmate population in Florida has been skyrocketing over the past decade, soaring from 47,000 in 1992 to 73,000 in 2002. This spike gives Florida the third-largest inmate population in the United States. Not unlike a business gearing up for a surge in growth, the state needed a new analytics system to keep its data current and in line. Bales claims the previous SPSS solution would not have survived the influx of inmates. "We knew we had a problem, because the previous solution was so inefficient," Bales recalls. "Members of the staff were frustrated, because they had to wait to get output. My staff had to get figures from paper and reenter them into the system, then get someone to verify the figures. It was frustrating and cumbersome to generate simple reports." With 52 state correctional facilities each housing between 1,000 and 2,000 inmates, one might think the amount of perimeter escapes would go up proportionally with the number of inmates. Remarkably, despite the overwhelming increase in inmates, Florida has not had a perimeter escape in the past two years, which represents the longest period of time without a perimeter escape in Florida's history, according to Bales. He attributes much of this achievement to the SAS analytics, and its ability to generate and disperse relevant research to all 52 Florida correctional facilities. A monthly escape report shows how often a convict escapes, the types of escapes, and how long before he is captured. Based on this information, departmentwide standards are developed out of best practices and each facility is then evaluated based on its ability to conform to the standards. Because information does not have to be reentered in the SAS system, there is less room for error, Bales says. "With SAS everyone uses the same format. We have unique codes for every crime that occurs, and they change as new laws come into play. With SPSS you'd have to change those formats on every computer. With SAS you change it once." So effective is the accuracy and relevancy of the data generated by the SAS solution that it has restored legislators' faith in the Florida Department of Corrections research--so much so that Bales says legislators have awarded his department with more money for escape-prevention measures. "The credibility of the department has improved with legislators. They rely on our research that comes out of the SAS system to make their decisions. If they don't believe the numbers, it doesn't matter what you tell them. But because our credibility is so high now they don't question us," Bales says. Generating escape reports is only one of many benefits of the SAS system. One of the more impressive uses of the SAS system, according to Bales, is its ability to help law enforcement agencies ferret out suspected murderers. If members of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) know a suspect in a murder case was in state prison, they can interview cellmates for valuable information the suspect may have leaked to one or more of his cellmates. "Inmates move a lot, but the SAS system can give a list of every cellmate and the dates [a suspect] was with each cellmate. Members of the FDLE are always amazed that we have that capability. They can then go in and interview the cellmates, which can lead to an arrest," Bales says. The Florida court system is taking notice of the SAS solution as well. Bales recalls several occasions where he was asked to testify in court cases on his department's behalf to provide analysis generated from the SAS solution. "Before, the structure wasn't there to do that analysis," he says. In addition to the violent offenders there are 153,000 offenders under supervision, such as parole and electronic monitoring, as well as those in work-release centers and lower-security facilities that allow inmates to work in the community part time. There are more than 220,000 total offenders in the state of Florida spread over 120 different facilities. "Our inmate population is larger than the resident population of 31 of the 67 counties of Florida," Bales says. It is no wonder Bales views his inmate population as a city. Similar to governing a city, Bales has to concern himself with issues like housing, utilities, waste management, food and health services, maintenance, transportation, support functions, and financial support. With so many areas to govern, it makes sense to turn to research for insightful analysis. In the past "employees wasted time waiting for reports to be made," Bales says. "Sometimes it took three weeks and involved the IT staff. Now it takes three hours without the IT staff." The new system has increased reporting productivity overall. "We did a study comparing the time to generate information and produce it between the SAS system and the former SPSS solution. The SAS solution was twenty-five times faster than the SPSS solution," Bales says. "I bet our reporting is ten times the amount it was in 1995 and our staff size is the same." The SAS solution in the Florida Department of Corrections is the largest SAS rollout in any Florida government facility, Bales says. As a result of his department's success with SAS, Bales says other government facilities in Florida are looking to implement SAS solutions. Email All That You Can Email In the Army Email for life for everyone in the Army. That is the mantra of former Army CIO, Lieutenant General William H. Campbell, and his IT team. With soldiers constantly transferring from base to base, "It's hard to track them down unless you know where they're going and what their new email address is," says a Department of the Army staff officer who wishes to remain anonymous. After some research Campbell realized a Web-based solution would enable every Army soldier to gain access to email no matter where in the world he or she is stationed. Two years ago the Army already had 40,000 registered email users, but the IT team realized the existing proprietary system would not scale high enough to support the more than 1 million Army soldiers. So Campbell turned to the commercial sector and selected a Web-based portal solution from Art Technology Group (ATG). "We knew if we didn't do anything our current system wouldn't scale to support more than 1 million users. It didn't offer a lot of the features and functions that the portals of today are offering. The commercial sector leapfrogged ahead with technology and had this capability right out of the box. Otherwise, it would have been immensely expensive to go with the proprietary solution. To scale up the proprietary solution would have cost the Army millions," the staff officer says. "It didn't cost us millions to move to the ATG product." The portal also enables users to learn about up-to-date personal information like pay information, medical coverage, and promotion eligibility details. The staff officer says the email-for-life campaign, which targets members of the active guard, reserves, retirees, and civilians doing contractual work for the Army, is growing at about 2,000 users per day. But the growth level will taper off and stay at 1.2 million users as it nears full saturation. Campbell's initiative is being driven today by Lieutenant General Peter M. Cuviello. Other military organizations, such as the Navy, the Air Force, and the Department of Defense are interested in following the Army's model, the staff officer says. The Internet Librarian
Debunking early hyperbole that claimed the Internet will make libraries and librarians obsolete, Library Systems and Services Inc. (LSSI) and its library customers are redefining the librarians' roles as information brokers. After initial research done with a variety of academic and public libraries, using eGain Communications Corp.'s eGain Live to power their Virtual Reference Desk, LSSI combines the power of the Internet with the expertise of the reference librarians to revolutionize information access. LSSI, a provider of contracted library management services pioneered the use of real-time text chat and Web cobrowsing for interacting with reference librarians. EGain Live Web 5.0 enables LSSI to speed the performance of cobrowsing, and enables reference librarians to easily handle multiple chat and cobrowsing sessions at the same time. According to Steve Coffman, vice president of product development at LSSI, the collaboration technologies complement the role of the library in a community, while making the Internet a more useful tool. "With the ubiquity of the Internet, information access is not the issue for library patrons anymore: The Internet has created an information overload. Today navigation and selection of appropriate information is the challenge. LSSI provides the Virtual Reference Toolkit, so the information experts can easily share their expertise with the communities they serve," Coffman says. LSSI has already implemented its solution in several cities and counties: "CleveNet," serving 28 libraries in the Cleveland area; "SmartyPants," for the Denver Public Library; "QandANJ," serving the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative; "Ask Your Library" for a group of Connecticut libraries; and others throughout the United States.
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