Data analytics ensure prisoners can't escape their past, present or future crimes
SA has a grim prisoner escape record: at least 100 prisoners were reported to have escaped from prison, police cells or courts during the past three months alone.*
In contrast, there has not been one single prison break-out in Florida, US, in the past two years, largely due to the Florida Department of Correction's innovative use of leading business intelligence software.
"Perhaps an answer to SA's prisoner retention problems lies not only in improved training and reinforced security, but also in analytical software. This could help the Department of Correctional Services to manage the vast mountain of data available on prisoners, turning it into intelligence to be used to prevent crime, track criminals and prevent escapes," says Bill Hoggarth, managing director of SAS Institute, leader in business intelligence.
The Florida Department of Correction uses SAS Institute's analytical software to generate and disperse relevant inmate research to all 52 of Florida's correctional facilities and other stakeholders.
"In Florida, for example, a monthly escape report generated by SAS shows how often a convict escapes, the types of escapes and how long before s/he is captured," he explains.
"Based on this information, department-wide standards are developed out of best practices and each facility is then evaluated based on its ability to conform to the standards. This system has been rewarded with no perimeter escapes in Florida in the past two years - a record in Florida's history."
With 74 000 prisoners across the State of Florida, the Florida Department of Corrections is also using SAS analytical solutions to utilise its inmate data to its full advantage in tracking down murderers and solving ongoing investigations.
Since 1996, SAS analytics has provided quick and easy access to the Department of Correction information systems, to give officials the intelligence to make informed decisions about prisoners, cases and the community. The department can, for example, compile a list of every cellmate a suspect has had during the prison term to form an interview list to see if the prisoner admitted to or leaked information about any crimes.
The system also allows the department to pull together invaluable analysis based on a full range of historical data in response to information requests to assist ongoing investigations. This type of analysis has given input into numerous cases to date.
Data access has proved even more valuable as tougher laws and legislation have ensured that Florida criminals are being sent to prison more often and for longer periods. As such, the prison population has increased by 65% over the past decade, significantly amplifying the amount of data held by the department.
The Department of Correction's data warehouse contains death and unemployment records, demographic and educational data and juvenile justice information on every inmate and offender in the state. SAS can be used to access, combine, share and analyse data from other state agencies like the Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Supreme Court and Department of Education.
Even with the plethora of information from 121 institutions throughout the state, the department can compile reports in a matter of hours. And information generated by SAS has been used to help win potentially costly lawsuits in court.
In the five years it's been using SAS, the department has substantially increased the number of standard reports and ad hoc requests it completes for various agencies - and can respond to as many as 1 200 ad hoc requests per quarter with approximately the same staffing level it had in 1996.
* According to newspaper reports, four alleged armed robbers escaped during a dramatic gun battle at Pinetown magistrate's court in February; 15 awaiting-trial prisoners escaped from the Matsulu holding cells in Mpumalanga in January; and 90 prisoners escaped during a fire in SA's biggest prison breakout from the Bizana Prison in the Eastern Cape in December.