Utilizing “little data” for corrections intelligence

​“Big data” is emerging as an important new capability in IT, letting organizations analyze massive amounts of exponentially-growing information from multiple sources.  Its role in the corrections world is expanding, but the most critical capability can be best described as “little data” – the collection and analysis of seemingly mundane data elements that can make an enormous difference in ensuring safe and effective correctional facilities. 

For many years, corrections agencies have gathered operational data from the different functions inside their facilities, including:

  • Offender data – which offender is housed where, and for how long?
  • Facility data – how many pounds of chicken were used in the prison kitchens last month?
  • Interaction data – who is visiting a specific offender, and how often?

Gathering and analyzing this data has been critical to running prisons efficiently, but the data hasn’t historically been used as a criminal intelligence resource.  But that’s starting to change. 

Corrections agencies have now begun to collect and analyze this “little data” in new ways to identify and stop criminal activities inside prisons.  By leveraging modern business intelligence tools, they can connect different data elements that are gathered as part of the separate prison functions.  Through this “connect the dots” process, corrections leaders are able to uncover previously hidden insights critical to improving facility safety, including:

  • Stopping the production of illicit alcohol by analyzing offender canteen purchases.
  • Identifying contraband cell phones from the details of clothing issued to offenders.
  • Disrupting illegal financial activity by correlating phone records and visitor logs.

Corrections agencies have collected operational data for years, but many are now making great strides to develop criminal intelligence through “little data.” Just imagine what will be possible when “big data” gets added to their intelligence arsenal!

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Richard Zak
Industry Solutions Manager – Justice & Public Safety, Microsoft State & Local Government