Recently while reading the news headlines, something caught my attention. We all have heard of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. Now, when it comes to these social networking sites, I have yet to participate. However, I’ve given it some pretty serious thought being that we now have a new baby at home and family stretched across the USA. It seems as though social networking sites in general are opening more avenues for criminal activity. Everyday I read an article stating how another person was victimized on one of these sites. So it brings up two closely related issues to me, inmates/criminals using internet and having access to these sites, and people using them for criminal activity to prey on innocent young people and people that are not “computer savvy” who do not understand what real threats can lie online.
An inmate using the internet is very frightening for those of us who have worked in institutions; since we know that some inmates spend massive amounts of time trying to figure out ways beat the system. I fear that giving inmates access to the internet is only going to be asking for more headaches. For instance, I was on-site at a facility, and while there this institution had given inmates access to use a county computer to access law library material. That computer was not locked down correctly and one of the more computer savvy inmates was able go to get access to county employee personal files. That inmate in turn went back to the block where the officer working the block had done something to upset this inmate; the inmate retaliated with the officer’s address, phone number and social security number. So maybe the facility was at fault, but this is an example of an inmate using his or her privilege to take an advantage. Now if we were to take this example and compound it with broader ability to access the internet and social networking sites, there is no telling where the ceiling lies.
As these sites grow and more and more people begin using them, we have the concern that they will be used in an illegal manner. I am sure that a convicted felon somewhere is planning something illegal as I write this. What is even scarier is that the vast majorities using these sites are young and impressionable teens who do not have the life experiences and shall I say “tough skin” that many of us have. I think back to when I was that young, raised in a small town around good people that it wasn’t until I got to college that I realized a person can look you right in the eyes and lie to you. Then I really had my eyes opened when I began working in county prison right out of college. I was impressionable and could have had my mind changed at any given point, but I was a lucky one, as I had good morals instilled in me that guided me through making the right decisions. I am not sure that today’s youth have that same set of morals that will assist them, not because the parents are doing a worse job but because society as a whole is willing to just sweep things under the rug and take the easy way out. If a child is “overactive” in school they need medicated whereas the town where I grew up, if you were overactive you were a good worker!
In closing, yes every generation seems to have it a bit easier than the one before, but where do we draw the line. I know that my Dad says that he had to walk to school through two feet of snow, up hill both ways and fight off the grizzly bears with his three ring binders, but today’s inmates having access to our most personal thoughts, pictures, addresses, phone numbers, and maps to our houses is where I draw the line.
I was recently reading an article about Cuyahoga County in Cleveland, Ohio and a cost-saving measure they were implementing in their facility. To sum up, it consisted of allowing short-term inmates to keep their street clothes and forgo an official medical screening. The article touted the savings from the program, but I have my reservations.
Although I realize that budgets are getting tighter every year and this has increased the urgency to reduce the budgetary strain put on the system by Correctional Facilities, I am not sure this is the way to go.
As a former corrections officer, I have my concerns with this program. There is a heightened risk with inmates who are not stripped and kept in their street clothes with limited physicals. The first 48-72 hours of incarceration are very high risk to begin with, as individuals may experience drug and alcohol withdrawal, separation from things familiar, realization of incarceration and elevated levels of stress. Due to these factors, it is my opinion that this period should be one of close supervision. In my experience, many institutions also place inmates under a medical watch for the first 48-72 hours.
I am a firm believer that the place to cut costs is on the backside of the incarceration; re-entry into society. I suggest eligible inmates be placed into early release programs, community service programs, drug treatment programs or any other programs that are available to assist these inmates as they integrate back into society. That way, we encourage inmates to become productive citizens and not to be caught in the depths of recidivism. The benefit of this plan is that not only are budget constraints immediately lessened, but also the future is brightened by the reduced occurrence of inmates returning to incarceration.
Over the past 8 years, I have been involved in DSI User Group in one form or another. For the majority of you who may not know me, I was a customer of Digital Solutions
before I became an employee.
Over the years that I attended DSI User Group meetings, the knowledge that I gathered was worth every minute spent in the classes and break-out sessions. I learned a little of everything, from Crystal Reports basic training to Advanced Sentencing Instruction. User Group is not only training classes though, it is also your way to see the future of the software. It was amazing to see how proposed changes to the software were going to streamline my everyday tasks and give me more time to devote to implementing other modules or improving usage of the ones we were already using at our facility.
Hearing Tony, our President and CEO, talk about where DSI/ITI came from and where it is headed has always been a highlight; I look forward to hearing that every year.
What makes User Group stand out to me, from both a customer and employee view, is how DSI takes every customer's feedback so seriously. In my opinion, this is what really sets DSI apart from its competitors; essentially, the product that you are using in your institution was created by and constantly improved upon by corrections professionals just like you.
As our customers vote on User Group changes, they are molding the application to make it their own custom solution based on what works best in the field!
So, what I am trying to say is that making the trip to Altoona for User Group is worth every second of your time! Not only will you get valuable instruction, you will get to help determine the future of the application that is such an integral part of your facility. I hope to see you there!
Here at DSI, I am an Application Specialist. But in larger terms, I have been involved with corrections for over 9 years. I earned my degree in criminal justice and my knowledge about corrections comes from in-the-field exposure. So I can relate to all of your experiences!
Previously, I worked as a Corrections Officer, Counselor and Work Release and Electronic Monitoring Coordinator before being employed at DSI. My knowledge of corrections is extensive - from the line officer's point of view to upper management practices.
I love being an integral part of the training and implementation process. I specialize in mapping your business processes to our application features and devising a training plan to complement that analysis. We're here to help - so ask away!