Detail is key when buying a prison records management system

When it comes to creating a system to cover all of your facility’s needs, knowing exactly what you want is the main objective


Orchestrating the installation and implementation of a new or upgraded records management, jail management or warrant management system is a complicated, time consuming and expensive undertaking. Automated information systems are an absolute necessity for effective law enforcement. At every level of the criminal justice system, easy access to real-time information such as inmate criminal histories, gang affiliation or identification details must be available to officers with simply a keystroke. When taking on a system upgrade or installation project, staying focused on clearly defined goals established by all affected departments can help streamline the design process.

The Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing pinpointed specific details as to why law enforcement agency information technology projects are extremely difficult to facilitate. These large scale projects usually take several years to complete. Such intricate projects often run through many budgeting cycles, cross several department authorities and include accommodation of different business practices. For example, a records management system (RMS) upgrade will not only include a corrections division jail management system (JMS) interface upgrade but potentially a warrant management system (WMS) and involve a court system upgrade also.

Marin County Sheriff’s Department in San Rafael, California, recently completed their RMS/JMS upgrade in conjunction with construction of a new facility. Sgt. Fred Marziano supervised the project and shared how an upgrade process can be very tedious at times and requires extreme attention to detail. He strongly suggested an agency taking on any RMS/JMS or other technology system upgrade or installation be crystal clear as to the needs within each department. He advised every entity involved should be certain that those needs are clearly defined in the project proposal.

Electronic control hub in cell block. From here, the doors in the unit can be opened and locked. Diagnostic and Evaluation Center, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. (Photo Mikael Karlsson/Arresting Images)
Electronic control hub in cell block. From here, the doors in the unit can be opened and locked. Diagnostic and Evaluation Center, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. (Photo Mikael Karlsson/Arresting Images)

“Investigate the product thoroughly,” Marziano said. Marin County Sheriff is one of very few agencies that have a direct interface between their RMS/JMS and those of neighboring city departments. He suggested that representatives from each department or agency come together to round-table their needs and goals for such a large and costly project.

The ability for Marin County’s systems to share information across multiple departments and with outside agencies was the one of the top priorities within their project proposal. Marziano stated, “With this multi-level integration of modules, there can be multiple points of failure.” Advancing their paperless system was another clearly established goal by Marin County and is appearing as a common trend for law enforcement agencies.

A multi-level integration is exemplified within the booking process. Specifically, booking data which is captured during an intake on a newly incarcerated inmate is entered into the JMS and eventually linked to both the RMS and court system. Additionally, if the agency designs an interface with JMS and Department of Justice (DOJ), the captured data in a JMS can be interfaced with the DOJ fingerprint system to confirm identity of the inmate and auto populate data from DOJ database into the JMS. In the case of Marin County Sheriff, their deputies, in addition to officers from several county wide agencies, are able to pre-book their arrestees remotely and the data is populated directly into the Marin County Sheriff JMS.

Constructing this detailed JMS interface custom to the needs of each department can involve integration with several other modules, including report writing, records management and warrants. Complications can arise as modules are not always sold together through one vendor. When this happens, systems must be custom designed through different manufacturers and then all modules must be linked together.

According to Marziano, Marin County’s ultimate goal of successful information sharing county wide was worth calculated design risks and ultimately resulted in a sophisticated and efficient information system for law enforcement. Ongoing clear communication of department needs, diligent investigation of products and vigilant focus on established project goals can help an agency succeed in a new installation or upgrade of their jail, records or warrant management system.

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