Magazine Article | August 25, 2009

Enterprise Content Management Eases Record-Keeping Process

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

To replace its antiquated record-keeping system, a prison turns to an open source ECM (enterprise content management) system.

Integrated Solutions, September 2009
Based in rural northwest New Jersey, the Warren County Correctional Center is a relatively small county jail. Inmate admissions number 1,450 to 1,500 annually, and the average daily inmate population is 154.

Record keeping is of paramount importance for correctional centers. "Everything has to be documented and has to be accurate," says Byron Foster, warden of the facility. "There's just no room for error." Record keeping begins the moment an inmate enters the facility. Each inmate comes with paperwork regarding their commitment, such as the criminal complaint against them. As soon as the inmate arrives, detailed medical records are created, as well as booking records, a record of the inmate's possessions, a digital photo, and a biometric signature (i.e. fingerprint).

While in the facility, additional records are generated, including disciplinary records, court events, psychiatric records, records of visitors, and a mail log. About 100 pages of records on average are produced during each inmate's stay totaling upwards of 150,000 pages for the facility in a year. Furthermore, access to all these records is also critical. "In this business, you are subject to legal action, civil suits, and investigations if there are criminal acts committed within the facility," says Foster. "Plus, every county jail is inspected by the State Department of Corrections each year. You've got to be able to produce your records, and you have to have good access to your records." This prompted the search for an inmate document management system.

When the project was started, some of the record keeping was automated, but most was not. The correctional center had a jailhouse management system since the 1990s. A database application, it did not cover all documents, and it lacked a document management component where all documents related to an inmate resided in a central location. "The jailhouse management system captured a lot of the information; however, there was a lot of duplication and there was still a lot of paper," says Foster. "Our prime objectives [with the correctional center's goals] were to reduce paper and reduce duplication of effort. We also wanted to make the job of the staff easier, so they don't have to look in several places for a certain piece of information. We wanted to encompass as much of our records in one system as possible." Further, the system had to be flexible and able to interface with systems outside the facility, such as the state's County Correctional Information System, as well as be able to handle a wide variety of documents, including warrants, court papers, complaints, and police documents.

Warren County Correctional Center engaged Chenoa Information Services to help it select and implement a solution. Chenoa recommended Alfresco because, says Mark Schlossberg, Chenoa's director of application development, it had the desired features and capabilities, and its open source code made it less expensive than the alternatives. Today, Alfresco Enterprise Content Management software forms the core of the Correctional Center's document management system.


The project took more than two years to implement. The new Alfresco system was installed in stages, while the existing system remained. This was done to avoid the possible loss of records, to provide time for training three shifts of staff, and to permit the back scanning of information regarding inmates already present in the facility.

Chenoa customized the system, such as computer screens designed to the Correctional Center's needs. The system was calibrated to handle the wide variety of documents which would need to be scanned in, including many originals that were, in fact, photocopies or faxes of somewhat low or inconsistent quality. "We spent a lot of time trying to tune the system to recognize documents — Is this Form A or Form B? Is this a complaint or a bail order?" notes Schlossberg.

Since traditional user names and passwords would not work with an inmate population, a digital signature consisting of a single fingerprint was created. Now, all internal forms contain digital signatures of inmates, officers, supervisors, nurses, doctors, and others. This makes possible document management from a central location, while maintaining state-required access controls. Chenoa also developed software that reduced the time it took to scan certain documents from about 1 hour to 5 minutes.

Simplifying the booking process is another benefit, as information can be entered using a PC, laptop, or tablet PC and immediately filed in the system. As for accuracy, Foster comments: "Do I think accuracy is going to be improved? Absolutely." As a result of the implementation of Alfresco, paper documents are largely eliminated, with 90% or more of hard copies expected to be electronic.