Corrections has the dual responsibilities of keeping the public safe and actively reducing re-offending, through activities and programmes offered to custodial and community-based offenders, says the organisation’s CIO, Sean Mills.
“Within this strategic context, technology transformation must be delivered securely, effectively and reflect the strong governance and low-risk principles that are embedded in the Corrections’ culture,” says Mills.
Offender Contacts is the department’s first mobile application and is intended for use by more than 2000 frontline staff through their smart phones. It allows read only access to caseload information for probation officers and community work supervisors. This innovation marks some key ‘firsts’ for Corrections.
It supports frontline staff working in the way they want to and reduces the need to carry paper files. The joint business/IT initiative uses agile methods and was created by the newly formed Digital Solutions team in support of the department’s move to bi-modal ways of working. It meets government security requirements by securely providing information to a mobile device.
The solution uses public cloud technology and the Corrections IT team worked closely with the GCIO to ensure the risk assessment processes supported public cloud usage.
“This has been a highly successful initiative, which has demonstrated the power of technology to truly impact ways of working,” says Mills.
“Critically it demonstrates to the department’s Executive Leadership Team that innovation can be used to deliver change, impact how staff work and not expose the department to unacceptable levels of risk.”
This application has also paved the way for Corrections’ journey to the cloud. “Corrections is in the process of selecting a DIA IaaS panel provider to enable migration to a hybrid onshore and offshore cloud environment, for all production and non-production services. Working closely with the GCIO, Corrections is keen to take advantage of the benefits true hybrid cloud environment,” says Mills.
Innovation at Corrections also supports keeping the staff safe. Further use of mobile technology includes deployment of a Staff Safety mobile application.
The application provides a duress alarm that notifies a response team of date, time, location, and works alongside existing home visit safety procedures and protocols.
“We are also trialling the use of wearables via a pilot of ‘on-body cameras’ that are worn by some custodial officers in high-risk areas, to de-escalate prisoner related incidents. We are trialling the capture of this data both for evidential and training purposes.”
Elsewhere, the core business-critical application, the Integrated Offender Management System (IOMS), has undergone two significant transformations over the past four years.
Created as three separate applications over a single database, the Psychological Services component of the application was written in VB6 and first deployed in 1998. “The application was rigid in design and changes were problematic, costly and took a long time to undertake,” Mills says.
The application was completely modernised to reflect current business processes and workflows and to ensure future flexibility with a lower cost of change.
The second major change has been a technology transformation to the IOMS applications supporting staff in prisons and the community. The applications were not reflective of the department’s ways of working and some functions were duplicated in both applications.
“Working closely with the business, we designed and developed a single application reducing the number of screens and complexity of the system. This has resulted in closely aligned navigation and workflow, to provide as much information as possible to enable structured decision making that minimises risk to offenders, staff and the public,” says Mills
“With the move from a forms-based user interface to a web based user interface, we have been able to deliver some usability requirements previously unavailable,” adds Mills
This project is in the final implementation stage and there has been substantial effort put into understanding the impact these changes will have on day-to-day work for frontline staff. Most significantly, staff no longer need to log in and out of two applications to get a single view of an offender.
He says frontline staff working in the project have reported significant benefits to how they work and the intuitiveness of use, navigation and performance.
In providing learning and research opportunities for our people Corrections makes use of different consultancy and information services. These include Gartner and InfoTech, as well as government forums and conferences. Mills says knowledge, best practice and examples are shared either by ‘teaching on the go’ and through forums attended by all IT staff.
“We are about to review and revise the current operating model, to ensure it reflects and enables our bi-modal ways of working and will support the move to the cloud and the ongoing delivery of the Technology Strategy.
“We are also undertaking a workforce development exercise to identify where our people sit from a capability, performance and potential perspective. This will provide the ability to target and monitor appropriate development opportunities.”