The risks of inmates bringing contraband into the Arkansas prison system has decreased exponentially since the Arkansas Department of Corrections started applying the principles of business intelligence and predictive analytics to identify, track,
and act on suspicious trends within its prison walls. By deploying a customized version of the Fusion Core Solution, based on Microsoft SharePoint technology, the Department can analyze previously siloed databases that detail everything from inmate movements
to banking transactions and telephone records. Now, the IT staff is working hand-in-hand with investigators to stop the flow of drugs and other illicit materials (including mobile phones). In the process, the Department has created a safer and more secure
environment for prison guards, support staff, and the inmates themselves.
In correctional institutions, a primary source of criminal activity stems from the illegal introduction of drugs, money, mobile phones, and even weapons. The contraband issue is a persistent challenge to prison systems around the country. It exposes
staff and inmates alike to health risks, violence, and generally threatens institutional stability.
At the Arkansas Department of Corrections, led by Director Ray Hobbs, significant strides are being made to safely and securely identify patterns and behaviors that are consistent with contraband activity. In doing so, new opportunities are created for investigators
to narrow their focus and more efficiently allocate resources to confiscate dangerous contraband.
“Contraband has been an ongoing issue for us,” explains Daniel Potter, Assistant IT Administrator at the Arkansas Department of Corrections. The Department has more than 20 facilities and employs 4,000 guards, investigators, and staff across the state.
Potter, along with his colleague Charles Bass, who handles support analysis for the inmate management system, and an interdisciplinary team of investigators, security officers, and administrators, are harnessing the power of business intelligence and predictive
analytics to attack prison contraband activity across the state.
Contraband interdiction and confiscation initiatives have typically been addressed by each facility, which generally run as independent standalone organizations. The process of finding drugs, money—and the illegal mobile phones that are used to coordinate
this criminal activity—was typically based on guards being vigilant, case officers’ working relationships with confidential informants, and other traditional investigative and law enforcement practices.
A few years ago, however, the Department began to explore two key questions:
Is there a basis for believing that an anticontraband effort across all the prisons in the system could yield positive results?
Can information technology be used in the fight against prison contraband?
“As we decided to address some of the problems around contraband—the smuggling of mobile phones, drugs, and money—we formed a committee to explore what could be done to address this,” says Potter. “We brainstormed a variety of different scenarios, and we
determined that we needed to figure out a way to capture and analyze data that would provide insight into the flow of contraband and then find a way to put a stop to it.”
As the committee began to gather intelligence on the options available for pursuing an effective anticontraband strategy, Potter and his team reached out to their technology partners.
“We contacted our Microsoft representatives and asked them what they had that could help us out with this. That is how we were introduced to the Fusion Core Solution,” he says.
The Arkansas Department of Corrections began to investigate the Fusion Core Solution. Designed and developed by Microsoft to operate in local and regional hubs for collecting, managing, and analyzing massive amounts of law enforcement data, the Fusion
||We are able to see problem areas now which we could not necessarily have visualized before. Over time, the analysis will make an increasingly positive impact on the security and safety of the prison workforce. It will make a difference.
| Ray Hobbs
Director, Arkansas Department of Corrections
Solution gathers data that can be used to create actionable intelligence. While today it is mostly used by law enforcement and first responder organizations that need to work across jurisdictional and regional boundaries (enabling federal, state, and local
collaboration), elements of the solution were applicable to the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
Fusion Core Solution, which is based on Microsoft SharePoint technology, takes data from disparate sources and fuses them to form a complete picture that enhances awareness, planning, prevention, and response to incidents or potential developments. It was
conceived as an integrated platform for the entire life cycle of intelligence analysis—from intake to analysis to dissemination across multiple organizations.
“This seemed like it was a viable option for us to pursue,” says Potter. “So we implemented the Fusion Core Solution and made some customized modifications. Now we are using it in conjunction with our mobile phone forensics system, our inmate management
systems, and our financial systems. I am bringing information into Fusion Core Solution from just about every data source that I have.”
The IT team at the Department can use Fusion Core Solution to break down the functional silos of computing while also providing an effective avenue for integrating data sources from across the prison system.
The initiative made an immediate positive impact on the anticontraband initiative. “When we find a contraband phone and confiscate it, we use our forensic system to do a full analysis. We pull up stored images, videos, all of the contact information, in
addition to inbound and outbound records, voice, and text messages,” says Potter.
The data is poured into the Fusion Core Solution, which the IT team uses to cross correlate, compare, and analyze the data against the inmate management system (a package called eOMIS provided by Marquis Software).
This allows investigators to identify patterns and connect the dots against databases that monitor:
- Population tracking
- Custody classification
- Sentence calculation
- Risk and needs assessment
- Jobs and programs
- Property inventory
- Monitoring and transfer
- Visitation tracking
- Grievance tracking
- Security threats
- Incident report tracking
“Beyond these systems, there are another half dozen dedicated databases across the state, which track different aspects of prison management, and data from those sources are also fed into Fusion Core Solution,” says Potter.
Thus, Potter and his team are now able to mine all of these sources to find interesting data correlations. He points out, however, that it is easy to get lost in all of the data. Putting a disparate array of databases into a single repository was only the
first step. The Department also needed a way to make sense of the information to support day-to-day analysis and decision-making.
Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint provides enterprise search across multiple data repositories in the Fusion Core Solution and was a critical feature in delivering an intelligence gathering and analysis platform that would address the challenges
the Department of Corrections faced.
But it was the PowerPivot features in the system that turned the data into an opportunity to mine actionable information that could be used to identify behaviors consistent with contraband activity. PowerPivot is a plug-in for Microsoft Excel spreadsheets
that works in an enterprise needs sharing and control scenario by operating within SharePoint.
“Using PowerPivot allows us to manipulate the data in the way that we need to and it feeds right into the dashboards that we create on the Fusion Core Solution environment. It allows us to visualize the data so that we can see patterns and not just data
points,” says Charles Bass, IT eOMIS Software Support Analysis at the Arkansas Department of Correction.
The Arkansas Department of Correction teams involved in mitigating criminal activity within the prisons have rapidly adopted the Fusion Core Solution to gain many new capabilities.
“We have made the system available to our teams in a pretty seamless manner,” says Bass. “We spent a few hours training them; however, most of the staff was already familiar with SharePoint. We just had to show them some of the different interfaces so they
could see how the new features work. Now, end users can use the system to get the reports that they need without any involvement from IT.”
When the Department deployed Fusion Core Solution, it also made an early decision to take a deliberate, step-by-step approach to building out the intelligence analysis capabilities.
“We started with the banking systems that are run by the prison. We began tracking trends about which inmates were sending money to—or receiving money from—people outside of the prison,” Bass says.
This allowed the Department to identify people outside the prison system who were sending money in to multiple inmates—sometimes even in different prisons. Based on analysis gathered by the Fusion Core Solution, the Department could then justify monitoring
initiatives that could lead to formal investigations.
“We had access to this data before, but we could not visualize it to see the patterns and trends in a meaningful manner. By using the Fusion Core Solution to create dashboards, with just a couple of clicks our analysts are able to clearly see interesting
developments. As a result, over the last two weeks alone, we have been able to execute 11 successful confiscations and interdictions on incidents,” Potter says.
“Now we are able to better understand the data on mobile phones,” he says. “We can correlate this information with the flow of money, and the personal relationships that interconnect inmates across the facilities and with people outside of the correctional
The system effectively provides a short list around which investigations can be initiated, and it makes for a much more efficient allocation of law enforcement resources to generate a much higher rate of success. Beyond improving the investigative track
record, the insight into what is happening within and around the prison system also contributes to a safer workplace for employees and for the prisoners themselves.
“We are able to see problem areas now which we could not necessarily have visualized before," says Ray Hobbs, Director of Arkansas Department of Corrections. “Over time, the analysis will make an increasingly positive impact on the security and safety of
the prison workforce. It will make a difference.”
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