|Technology hits new heights|
|By Ann Coppola, News Reporter|
Correctional technology assessment committees welcomed in May a new member to the family after the first-ever Rocky Mountain Technology Assessment Committee (RMTAC) meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. RMTAC joined its sister committees, the Northeastern Technology and Product Assessment Committee and the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center - West Region (NLECTC), in bringing a unique forum for technology analysis to a new part of the United States.
RMTAC’s first meeting followed the format of its companions. It featured a series of vendor and technology presentations. After each presentation, the vendor left the room so the group could discuss their thoughts of the technology and learn from those already using the product.
“This is something we’ve needed to do for a long time,” says Oklahoma Department of Corrections Deputy Director of Field Operations Greg Williams. “We need to get corrections folks together and look at technology in a forum to get an honest appraisal and let our opinions be shared with each other. As budgets get tight we’ve got to be more and more cautious about how we spend money and what kinds of things we invest in.”
The two-day meeting drew about 20 representatives from six different Rocky Mountain region state correction agencies, three Colorado county jails, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the academic community. The group included sheriffs, engineers, security directors, and information technology specialists.
RMTAC reviewed five technology presentations, including General Electric Security’s compact body cavity screeners and passive magnetic metal detectors, which claims to detect hypodermic needles and razor blades. The group looked at video visiting technology and Web-based inmate services kiosks from JPay, Inc.
In addition, they tried a handcuff muzzle from Restraints, Inc. The muzzle, made of clear vinyl and vented mesh, is designed to prevent offenders from getting out of handcuffs.
“There was a balance of both IT and non-IT corrections technology, which for me was very interesting, because I don’t always get to see the non-IT side of things,” says Wyoming Department of Corrections Director of Information Technology Vincent Bocchino. “It was very interesting to see how both of those sides can work together for new possibilities.”
NICE Systems demonstrated how its NiceVision video technology could be used to recognize specific inmate behaviors on camera, like fence climbing, and then trigger a security alert. Recorded voice monitoring technology can also be used to sense excitement and monitor certain trigger words.
“The video interpretation was very fascinating to me,” says Gene Atherton, NLECTC institutions program manager and RMTAC founding member. “I had never seen anything like it before. It can tell you if inmates are in the wrong spot or if they are fighting. It’s very advanced and comes out of Middle East warfare.”
The Colorado Department of Corrections, which partnered with RMTAC to produce the meeting, had several of its own representatives present to the group. It shared its experience with IspraJet, an Oleoresin Capsicum spray delivery system used in forced cell extractions. CODOC discussed its knowledge of vulnerability assessments, a security methodology too, which is also utilized by the Massachusetts and Oklahoma Departments of Correction.
“Vulnerability assessments determine pathways through the institution where inmates many commit crimes or escape,” Atherton explains. “They can evaluate the time frames and let you know it will take 90 seconds to go from here to the front door or a minute and half to get to the front gate.”
Even though the meeting was RMTAC’s first step into the spotlight, attendees seemed to notice few rookie mistakes.
“For the first meeting the group had ever had, I was expecting it to be a little disjointed, but I didn’t find that at all,” Williams says. “It was very well organized, very well presented.”
“Wyoming, being a small state, we haven’t been exposed to as much, so for me it was very helpful and offered a lot of interesting information,” Bocchino adds.
The next steps for RMTAC will be sharing its reviews with fellow corrections peers. Atherton anticipates an RMTAC website to go up in early July. It will share the contact information of committee members familiar with each technology presented at the meeting, without sharing any personal views.
The next RMTAC meeting is scheduled for the first week of October. RMTAC hopes to push its committee membership to 30 or more for its second meeting.
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