2Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
Across the globe, advanced nations struggle with a common challenge: the cost of corrections
has reached a point of unsustainability. Driven by increasing rates of incarceration and
persistent, high rates of reoffending, it is a problem which has gained the attention of all the
actors across the justice and public safety spectrum.
Legislators, the judiciary, corrections leadership, public policy experts, and others are asking a
common, but urgent question: How can the cost of corrections be reduced without compromising
the safety of the offender, corrections staff, and the public at large?
For the corrections agency executive, effectively addressing this question will be the number one
objective for the balance of this decade, and likely beyond.
A Two-Dimensional Problem
The high cost of corrections – regardless of country or jurisdiction – is a result of two
High Rates of Incarceration
For more than a generation, nations and local jurisdictions have adopted legislative and
judicial sentencing policies that focus heavily on incarceration as the primary means of holding
accountable those persons convicted of a criminal offense. Based on the belief that incarceration
would teach the offender a lesson and thus reduce his or her future criminal behavior, offenders
have been sentenced to jail or prison in greater numbers, for longer periods of time, for offenses
that are often non-violent in nature.
Although policies have been crafted separately within each country or state, and implemented at
varying times, the impact has been dramatic and consistent. For example:
• In England, the prison population more than doubled from 1992 to 20081
, and has shown no
signs of decrease since then2
• For the 25 years through 2009, prisons across Australia experienced a population increase
• In Canada, the total cost of corrections doubled in just a five-year window from 2006 to 20114
• In the United States, where the problem is most acute, state prisons alone experienced a
173% increase in incarcerated populations over a 20-year period from 1987 to 20075
With increasing numbers of offenders being sentenced to jail or prison, and with longer, and
more complex sentences being imposed, corrections agencies at every level have been facing
significant over-crowding challenges, driving the need for construction of new facilities. Capital
costs, combined with the operational cost of housing, feeding, clothing, transporting and
supervising increased numbers of offenders have placed an unsustainable burden on public
“Do Better, Do Less: The Report on the Commission on English Prisons Today,” The Howard League for Penal Reform,
London, England, 2009.
“Story of the Prison Population 1993 to 2012: England and Wales,” UK Ministry of Justice, London, England January 2013.
“Australian Crime: Facts and Figures 2010,” Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, ACT, Australia, 2010.
“Prison Costs Soar in Last Five Years: Report,” National Post, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 18, 2011.
“1 in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008,” Pew Public Safety Performance Project, Washington, DC, USA, 2008.
3Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
budgets. This comes at a time of global economic uncertainty, and falls on governments that
are struggling to find the necessary funds to support other public goods, such as education,
transportation, and infrastructure reinvestment. A hidden, but very significant component of
the cost increase for corrections is the reality that longer sentences for more people produce
an aging prisoner base, which introduces more complex health care requirements. It has been
estimated that healthcare expenditures for prisoners over age 55 are nine times greater than the
cost of younger prisoners, and most jurisdictions are ill-prepared to manage either the patient
needs or the associated costs.6
High Rates of Reoffending
offenders for longer
periods was intended
to deliver a tangible,
long-term public safety
benefit in the form of
reduced crime, and
thus lower rates of
across counties, states,
provinces and nations,
the stark realization is
the same: some twenty
to thirty years on, those
benefits simply have not
Instead, rates of
recidivism in many nations continue to hover between 40% and 50%. In England, for example,
nearly 50% of adults reoffend within the first year of their release from prison.7
offenders in the country, the results are even more staggering: 75% of those sentenced to
youth custody commit another crime in less than twelve months from release.8
In the province
of Manitoba, Canada, which currently has the country’s highest rate of incarceration9
recidivism rate for young offenders, measured quarterly since 2002, has never dropped below
Often those guilty of reoffending have not actually committed a new crime per se, but have
committed a technical violation of the terms of their release, such as a missed appointment with
a parole officer. Yet, in many instances, that technical offense results in a return to a custodial
environment, with all its associated costs.
“Number of Older Inmates Grows, Stressing Prisons,” The New York Times, New York, New York, USA, January 26, 2012.
“Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders,” Policy Paper presented to
Parliament by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice by Command of Her Majesty, London, England,
Mia Dauvergne, “Adult Correctional Statistics in Canada, 2010/2011,” Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
October 12, 2012.
Tom Brodbeck, “Reoffending Rates Are Staggering,” Winnipeg Sun, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, March 2, 2010.
4Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
It is this seemingly intractable combination of high rates of incarceration and persistent,
high rates of reoffending that have forced elected officials, corrections experts, public policy
researchers and others committed to justice and public safety to find new ways to efficiently
and safely manage criminal populations. As evidenced through various surveys and reports11
there is considerable public support for change as long as there is no compromise to offender,
staff, and community safety. New policy initiatives, such as those presented in Michigan12
, and England and Wales14
, put forward innovative thinking and approaches to the
management of correctional populations. In each jurisdiction, there is an emphasis on reducing
incarcerated populations, which drive so much of the escalating cost of corrections, in favor of
community-based management of non-violent offenders, improved rehabilitation programs, and
a more graduated response to technical violations for those who have been released.
However, the impacts from a generation of public policy cannot be reversed overnight. Achieving
positive outcomes will take time, collaboration, and patience.
Software Solutions Have a Role to Play
Public policy, and the broad structural changes which are necessary to reduce the cost of
corrections is not the domain of a software vendor. That is the clear responsibility of elected
officials and corrections experts to define and implement. However, software vendors, especially
those with a long-term commitment to the corrections profession, do have an obligation to
deliver technological innovation to assist agencies around the world as they wrestle with the
challenge of safe, intelligent cost reduction.
Software vendors with a strategic understanding of the issues facing corrections, and a long-
term solution roadmap, will instinctively understand where and how they fit in.
First, there are two driving realities that face every agency, and neither can be favored over
1. The cost of corrections has to be reduced, immediately and sustainably.
2. Solutions to reduce the cost of corrections cannot result in compromises to safety – of the
offender, of correctional staff, or the general public.
Second, there are multiple business levels at which comprehensive, integrated solutions can
“Public Opinion on Sentencing and Corrections Policy in America,” Pew Public Safety Performance Project,
Washington, DC, USA, March 2012.
“State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons,” Pew Public Safety Performance Project, Washington,
DC, USA, April 2011.
“DJI Master Plan 2013-2018,” Custodial Institutions Agency, Ministry of Security and Justice, The Hague, Netherlands,
“Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders,” UK Ministry of Justice,
London, England, December 2010.
5Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
The world is most complex at the operational level of corrections. With so many moving parts,
with safety and security as paramount concerns, with myriad regulations regarding offender
treatment, and tens of thousands of daily interactions between offenders and corrections staff,
the need for proven, well-defined policies and procedures is essential.
Moreover, the need
to understand each
offender in detail, to
know who the offender
is and the risks he
poses, is of fundamental
importance to the
such as risk to staff or
other offenders, length
of sentence, gang
affiliations, and mental
and physical health
are but a few of the key
data points that create
the offender profile.
However, at the operational level, it is not enough to simply know who the offender is. It is just as
important to understand how to manage that offender – safely and efficiently.
In a typical custodial environment, offenders and corrections staff engage in countless daily
transactions. Some are routine, such as ordering items from the commissary, selecting meal
preferences and exchanging laundry, while others are more complex and inherently riskier,
such as arranging for a visit with a family member, moving to and from court proceedings, and
attending classes. Even within a single facility, let alone a complex national network of jails and
prisons, thousands upon thousands of transactions take place every day. Each one has a defined
process, each one must be recorded in some fashion, and each one takes time. The longer each
transaction takes, and the more manual its nature, the greater the cost of that transaction.
The knowledge of how to conduct that transaction must be taught to every staff member. That
takes time. And when staff members are reassigned or retire from service, training must be
delivered to the replacement staff.
6Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
For years there have been offender management systems (OMS)15
in use in every type of agency –
jail, prison, probation and parole – and these systems perform effectively in the capture and
retrieval of offender information. However, because they are defined by the business processes
they automate, often just mimicking an historical, paper-driven process, a legacy OMS does not
deliver the accelerated efficiency that a cost-heavy environment requires.
If every transaction between an offender and an officer has a cost, and if the number of
incarcerated offenders is increasing, and finally, if the typical offender is serving a longer
sentence, the cumulative cost of undertaking those transactions is extraordinary. More
importantly, those transaction costs are a major contributor to the very real fiscal predicaments
that every corrections agency must resolve.
Software solutions for corrections must focus on reducing the time it takes to complete
every transaction if sustainable operational efficiencies are to be gained. Many of the tasks in
managing an offender population still involve paper processes today. Through intelligent use of
software and supporting hardware, it is quite feasible to shorten the time it takes to complete the
transaction, thus reducing cost and increasing efficiency, without compromising the integrity of
the task or the safety of the offender and the officer.
The opportunities for operational efficiency are numerous. For example, in situations of higher
intake volumes, an intuitive web-based tool guides the intake officer through a very specific set
of essential tasks while backlogging lower priority ones, ensuring statutory intake times are
achieved. A housing unit supervisor makes use of a wireless tablet for automating counts, which
provides a series of operational benefits, such as reduced time to complete the task, elimination
of redundant data re-entry, and the availability of real-time information. For the community
corrections officer, the use of a wireless device for scheduling meetings with a parolee or
recording workplace verifications ensures greater time in the field and improved ability to
manage a greater number of offenders in the community.
These are but a few of the innovations that agencies can utilize to reduce transaction times,
and lower costs, at the operational level. Lower costs against the tens of thousands of daily
transactions in a typical custodial facility results in a better use of resources and a lowering
of aggregate operational expense. Across the entire facility network within a single agency
structure, the benefit can be substantial and sustainable.
It’s not enough for a software solution to automate the process. Rather, it is imperative that the
solution enable delivery of ever greater levels of speed and efficiency into operation, all the while
maintaining safety and security.
Offender management systems are generally regarded as mission-critical applications used in the capture,
management and retrieval of essential information about the offender: identification, demographic and biometric
information; offenses and sentences; physical and mental health; classifications and risks; programs; visitation
permissions and restrictions; property and financials; and release date.
7Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
Corrections Agency Management
If the correctional facility is where the daily operational machinery grinds on and on, twenty-
four hours a day every day of the year, it is at the level of agency management where strategic
planning and the consideration of alternative approaches takes place. It is here that seasoned
professionals ask long-range questions and consider changes in correctional practice to help
them run a more efficient business.
In their regular interactions with legislators and the funding bureaucracy, corrections agency
executives are constantly pressed to defend their expenditures, explain their outcomes, and
articulate their plans for improved agency management. As many executives will attest, it is
one of the most stressful aspects of the job – defining how a complex agency with constrained
resources can operate more efficiently without compromising safety, in a profession that is
fraught with risk at virtually every turn.
To meet this need,
requires easy access to
operational data so they
can analyze activities
and understand where
efficiencies might be
gained. They need the
ability to pose ‘what if’
questions against that
data, such as ‘What
if time credits were
calculated differently for a
certain class of offender?
Would that reduce
populations to such a
level that a housing unit
could be closed?’ They need information to help justify the modification of a business process,
and then capture revised operational performance metrics to monitor improvement. Like their
counterparts in the private sector, corrections agency managers require access to proven,
flexible reporting and business intelligence tools.
Unfortunately, the typical OMS in place in today’s operational environment lacks the reporting
and business intelligence sophistication required. The ability to share relevant information with
agency management in a timely manner is heavily constrained. With a primary focus on data
inputs, legacy systems were designed with very little consideration of information outputs.
Certainly with enough time and enough resources, skilled analysts can find the data, but just
as time and resources are in short supply at the corrections operations level, the same can be
said of the agency management level. Yet when a legislator or justice minister asks a business
question of an agency executive, the expectation is that the answer is only a few hours, or
perhaps days, away.
They need information to help justify the modification of a business process,
8Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
To enable a more comprehensive and insightful understanding of the business, corrections
agency management requires a solution which fully integrates proven reporting and business
intelligence capabilities directly into the OMS. They require an approach which inherently
understands that the outputs are just as important as the inputs, that they are easy to access,
and can be easily presented in any format, from static reports to real-time dashboards.
Without business visibility at the agency management level, it is virtually impossible to drive the
changes necessary to produce safe, sustainable cost reduction for corrections.
Justice and Public Safety Spectrum
Across the spectrum of justice and public safety agencies – whether at the county, state,
provincial or national level – the focus on sustainable, safe cost reduction is ever-present.
Legislative policy drives cost. Judicial interpretation of policy drives cost. Corrections agencies
drive cost through their management of offenders, business processes and facilities.
In the same vein, these agencies and the professionals that run them care greatly about public
safety and ensuring positive outcomes for society. They are committed to reducing offender
populations, and reducing reoffending without compromising safety and security.
To achieve these outcomes, agencies across the spectrum recognize the benefit of sharing
relevant information securely and efficiently. The ability to share specific information about
certain classes of offenders, such as gang members or sex offenders, is fundamental to
improved security and public safety. The ability to easily identify non-violent offenders who
are suitable for early release, and reliably share that information with community corrections
officers is an essential task in the more efficient management of an integrated correctional
agency. In many jurisdictions around the world, such information sharing is a legal requirement,
and the failure to do so can result in significant financial penalties for the delinquent agency.
Historically, this has been a difficult mandate for any agency to fulfill, despite the clear benefits.
Lack of easy access to system data, competing data formats, and lack of time and skilled
resources have proven to be formidable obstacles.
Emerging standards for data exchange and system interoperability provide the means for
knocking those obstacles over. In the United States, Canada, and the European Union, the
National Information Exchange Model (NIEM)16
has gained traction in numerous justice and
public safety agencies to facilitate a standards-based approach to simplify information exchange.
To support ever-increasing information exchange requirements, solutions providers must
embrace the NIEM standard and stay current with its evolution. A mission-critical OMS
application that lacks this commitment places an unnecessary and costly burden on the agencies
which rely on it.
www.niem.gov and www.ijis.org
9Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
A New Solution for a Complex Challenge
For years, the success of offender management systems was defined by their ease of
information capture and the breadth of business processes they automated. In a world in which
offender populations were rapidly increasing, it made sense to focus on efficient information
capture and retrieval.
But that is not today’s world.
Syscon Justice Systems, a leader in the design and delivery of comprehensive offender
management systems for more than three decades, understands clearly how the world has
changed, and that a new generation of solutions is required to meet a more complex set of
Introducing the Workflow™ Family of Correctional Solutions
Building on a comprehensive understanding of
corrections business process at all levels –
jail, prisons and community corrections
– in all jurisdictions – county, state,
provincial and national – Syscon
delivers a new, innovative offender
management solution with a
simple, but powerful objective:
Help our agency partners to
reduce the cost of corrections
without compromising safety.
The Workflow™ Family
combines our three decades of
OMS experience with a modern
technology framework and
flexible applications that are
tailored to the specific needs
of jails, prisons, and community
corrections agencies. Delivered as
a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS)
offering, it provides every agency with
an easy-to-use solution that will address
correctional needs well into the next decade.
10Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
Flexible Applications on a Common Architecture
The Workflow™ Family delivers specific functional applications – WorkflowJAIL™,
WorkflowPRISON™, and WorkflowCOMMUNITY™ – for each segment of the corrections market.
These applications, guided by in-house corrections experts and with input from our international
client base, provide comprehensive business process automation, such as Intake and Reception,
Classification, Movements, Legal Cases and Sentence Calculation, Visitation Management,
Programs and Services, and Release and Discharge, to name a few. The ability to efficiently
configure business processes ensures that the agency can adapt the application to meet
business requirements, and move correctional staff and the offender more quickly through any
Each offering in the family relies upon a common service-oriented architecture, enabling
efficient integration with other corrections applications, and administration of user rights,
auditing, security, reporting and document management. Deliberately designed to be
database agnostic, the Workflow™ Family ensures that existing technology assets can be
leveraged, or even retired, if costly licensing requirements represent an opportunity for
improved cost management.
User-friendly and Intuitive
As an application fully designed for the Web, the Workflow™ Family embraces proven standards
for an efficient user experience. With an intuitive and consistent design paradigm, the application
caters to a new generation of corrections professional that has never known a world without
laptops, browsers and smart devices. The clean design of every interaction screen in every
business process moves the user quickly through the task at hand, an essential requirement in
high-volume offender environments.
Designed for Business Visibility and Information Exchange
The Workflow™ Family utilizes Oracle®
BI Publisher to integrate best-in-class reporting and
business intelligence capabilities. The solution delivers operational reporting across each
business process, as well as advanced query and analysis capabilities. Agencies will benefit from
an improved understanding of operational performance, as well as a far easier ability to analyze
information to support long-range, strategic initiatives for cost-reduction.
Built in full support of the NIEM standard, the Workflow™ Family stands at the forefront of OMS
offerings in support of efficient cross-agency and cross-jurisdictional information sharing.
11Reducing the Cost Without Compromising Safety
Any Device, Anytime, Anywhere
Within corrections, the use of wireless devices, such as smart phones, tablets, and other
handheld computers is increasing at an impressive rate. Built around Syscon’s commitment to
reduce redundant, manual effort and paper-driven processes, the Workflow™ Family is designed
to intelligently and securely deliver business process task flow to a wide range of wireless
devices. With tasks designed to render appropriately based on the device, agencies can equip
their staff with cutting edge tools which will speed up data capture, eliminate errors and the
need for data re-entry, and enable corrections professionals in any setting to perform more of
the job they are trained to do.
Secure, Scalable and Ready for the Cloud
With ever-increasing data volumes and demands for access to information, the Workflow™
Family provides the security and scalability expected of a mission-critical enterprise solution.
Designed for use in environments that feature high-volume offender intakes, large numbers of
simultaneous users, and high-volume data demands, the solution scales efficiently and delivers
99.99% uptime reliability.
With corrections agencies around the world embracing secure, cost-effective cloud-based
deployment of applications, the Workflow™ Family is built to support deployment in the cloud or
in established, on-premise data centers.
A Compelling Vision from a Proven Partner
The Workflow™ Family of Correctional Solutions benefits from a comprehensive understanding
of corrections, and a commitment to a long-term product roadmap, 100% focused on the needs
of corrections professionals.
We understand through experience that Offender Management Solutions are at the very core
of corrections operations. By combining our proven ability to capture and manage all aspects
of offender information with an investment in innovative new tools and technologies to help
reduce transaction costs and better understand business performance, Syscon delivers a new
generation of OMS solution.
With the legislative, operational and budgetary changes facing corrections, agency leadership
understands the importance of embracing forward-thinking solutions to support intelligent
and safe cost-reduction. The Workflow™ Family of Correctional Solutions provides a powerful
new asset designed to support those changes. It is a solution that will enable every agency
to reduce the cost of corrections without compromising safety, and contribute to improved