Global positioning systems monitor offenders more cost-effectively than jail time. Pictured is the EMTAC Bluetooth S3-GPS Receiver featuring the SiRFstarIII chip set.

Federal, state and local government agencies, at times with the help of corporate and private security operations, have jumped ahead with computer and communications technologies to track out-of-jail individuals as well as share law enforcement information.

In New Hampshire, jail officials now use a GPS-based system from BI of Boulder, Colo., as an alternative to monitor inmates and pretrial defendants who, because they are not a risk to society, need not be incarcerated. In Missouri, justice officials were tasked to create methods to transfer local court data from 49 unique court case management systems to a statewide Oracle database thanks to Asynchrony Solutions of St. Louis. Both security projects were equally complex tasks.

Strafford County is one of 10 small New Hampshire counties, with a span of only 368 square miles. Considered part of the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metro area, its leadership aims to maintain the highest level of services, including public safety, cost-effectively.

The Strafford County Department of Corrections, under the guidance of the County Commission, opened a new jail in the county seat, Dover, to deal with significant jail crowding issues. Before the new facility opened, the county’s old 68-bed jail was housing 160 inmates, a recipe for inmate and officer safety issues. While the new facility has not reached capacity, the county continually seeks alternatives for inmates and pretrial defendants deemed not a risk to community safety.

The county’s corrections program has developed and manages these cost-effective alternatives. The department supervised 228 people in 2004, supports three district courts and a superior court and administers a variety of programs, including: a weekend community work program, step-down program, short-term residential drug and alcohol treatment, bail supervision and an administrative home confinement electronic monitoring (EM) program.

EM and step-down programs

The county’s corrections program began using electronic monitoring in 2003 to add an extra layer of supervision for certain community-based offenders. The program involved the use of several electronic monitoring supervision tools to drive compliance to conditions placed on individuals, including both pretrial defendants and sentenced offenders, while they are released to community supervision. For sentenced offenders, the step-down program is community-based supervision versus time at the corrections facility. This option rewards sentenced inmates who have taken responsibility for their actions and meaningful participation in jail programs. Both of these options offer an intermediate or alternative sanction.

The county has found that it is advantageous to use a mix of supervision technologies, applying the right level of supervision to maintain accountability while also managing costs. In this program, GPS tracking is reserved for higher risk inmates or defendants.

The county implemented a GPS tracking system that allowed officials to know within 10 meters where a person has been throughout the day. Despite varied terrain and limited cellular coverage in the relatively rural county, the department now uses the system on 25 percent of all offenders on EM. In addition, the county implemented a radio frequency monitoring system for testing sobriety from the person’s home, and a 24/7 national monitoring center to support the department’s strict supervision efforts. The county also implemented a system by which officers could verify location from outside their residence, and a password-protected Internet application that allows the agency to access and make updates to offender data, equipment and schedules.

Successful completion of the program requires adherence to the rules and regulations as well as compliance with any conditions that have been ordered. Other requirements include payment of users’ fees. An offender typically spends several months in one of these electronic monitoring programs although the range can vary from a week to more than a year. Officials noted that participants appreciate being released to home detention so they can work and support their families.

While in the program offenders pay varying levels of fees, depending on the type of supervision involved. GPS tracking is assessed at $14 a day; RF monitoring at $70 a week for sentenced offenders and $10 a week for pretrial defendants. The fees reduce the cost to administer these programs.

Both programs using electronic monitoring have contributed to fewer inmates in the new county jail, thereby avoiding more costly incarceration costs of $55 per day, and helping to avoid jail crowding issues. The county estimates it saves $1.2 million each year by moving such offenders to community supervision, along with the incalculable benefit to the district in keeping non-dangerous offenders out of a prison environment and in a position to contribute to the community without becoming a threat to it.

And when rehabilitation efforts fail, the electronic supervision tools have assisted law enforcement. In one instance, the tracking data logged by the GPS monitoring system was used to link an individual to a specific crime. The detailed GPS maps demonstrated the perpetrator was present at the time of the crime. This evidence was admissible in court.

Says Jim Roggero, director of Missouri court automation, “We continue to work on future versions and other national XML initiatives such as electronic court case filing XML standards and the National Information Exchange Model.”

Forming a Justice data model

Lessons learned in the wake of the terrorist attack of 2001 created additional urgency at both state and federal levels to enable automated data sharing. In 2005 the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security selected the Global Justice XML data model (GJXDM) as the first standard for creation of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). A project led by the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA) is the largest and most comprehensive state-wide GJXDM-based project to date. The GJXDM approach in Missouri has reduced the time to conversion competition by 50 percent and potentially saved OSCA $1.6 million on the remaining conversion.

The Missouri Court Automation Initiative was launched in 1994 to give the Show Me State’s courts the most advanced information technology available. During that period, Missouri’s Judicial Circuits, Appellate Courts and Supreme Court each had their own proprietary data and court automation systems. After extensive research, OSCA selected the ACS Justice Information System (JIS) to supersede the 49 unique and disconnected court automation systems then in use. To deploy JIS, data from each participating court required conversion to the new, statewide JIS database.

Creating the methods to transfer local court data from 49 unique court case management systems to a statewide Oracle database was an extremely complex task. Over the course of many years, each state court system had put together its own unique software implementation, data structure and data schema. Some courts deployed homegrown systems. Others used one of a variety of off-the-shelf products with databases such as SQL, Microsoft Access, DB and Clarion. With approximately 500 data fields per site, the full statewide implementation would eventually require analysis and conversion of over 25,000 data fields

OSCA’s initial conversion strategy was to import raw, unformatted, flat data files extracted from each proprietary database into Oracle. Programmers used that program’s stored procedures to move data into the state’s database. Due to the unique properties of each court’s existing system and the best practices for conversions available at the time, almost no reusable code was created within a particular conversion. Developers started almost from scratch with each court. Each conversion required a development team 18 to 24 months to complete. Over the subsequent seven years, 40 out of 45 circuit courts, plus four appellate courts, were converted to the new system.

Since the conversion project began, extensible markup language (XML) had emerged as the leading vehicle to facilitate data exchange by creating standards of data structure and semantics.

“This new approach has potentially saved $1.6 million on the remaining data conversions and reduced the time to conversion completion by 50 percent,” says Patrick Brooks, Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator’s manager of applications development.

New standard

After close examination, OSCA determined that GJXDM would be a more efficient method to accomplish their integration requirements. Since it was such a new standard, no other state had completed an implementation on the scale required by Missouri’s conversion project. OSCA had no internal resources experienced in XML and realized it would be best to find a vendor who had experience with large-scale XML-based integration projects. After a public RFP process, OSCA chose Asynchrony Solutions of St. Louis to lead the project.

Creating the schema involved investigation and a lot of trial and error. Since GJXDM is not a schema, but rather a library of tags, the content and meaning of data had to be discovered and validated by the development team working closely with the OSCA’s technical personnel.

“Getting to know the complexity of the data structure was a demanding and somewhat dynamic process,” said Nate McKie, who spearheaded the project for Asynchrony. “In a criminal case, for instance, there is only one judgment and only one record if you’re guilty. For a civil case, the judgment needs to touch various parties and must be properly linked. As we worked through hundreds of data fields, there were dozens of similar situations that needed to be analyzed and integrated into the overall data schema. I can’t imagine how anyone could create a design document before working with the actual data.”

Once the schema was created, the transfer of data between XML and the JIS Oracle database was still not a simple process. It was not enough to just create an XML schema. The developers needed to create, manage and enforce business rules to evaluate source data, and place and format it properly based upon its content. Instead of moving data directly from XML to JIS, an intermediate step was necessary to effectively apply business rules. Using an open source component called “Digester,” programmers converted the XML document to Java objects. Business rules could then be applied through an XML document defining each rule. Over 200 unique business rules were eventually created.

“This new approach has potentially saved OSCA $1.6 million on the remaining data conversions and reduced the time to conversion completion by 50 percent,” said Patrick Brooks, OSCA’s manager of applications development. “The previous methodology took 18 to 24 months per court. Using the new GJXDM approach, conversions are taking only six to nine months. The acceleration of these critical tasks will enable the completion of all court conversions by the end of 2007.”

GJXDM has emerged as a standard that extends beyond the Department of Justice. It speeds the process of creating data exchanges and integration while significantly reducing the costs of such projects. The Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the Department of Justice based the National Information Exchange Model on GJXDM. The FBI will use GJXDM as the foundation for its upcoming Law Enforcement Data Exchange, N-DEx. Through its proactive utilization of GJXDM, Missouri is a leader in supporting future inter-state, intra-state and federal data integration requirements.

“Missouri’s judiciary has been an active contributor to the GJXDM from its beginning, said Jim Roggero, director of Missouri court automation. “We continue to work on future versions and other national XML initiatives such as electronic court case filing XML standards and the NIEM. It has been exciting to be involved in the GJXDM from its early development and we will continue to support the development of national standards.”