Thanks to an incredible group of Lehigh students, prison intake processes are now much simpler for Pennsylvania DOC. But, is this another way to simplify mass incarceration?
The Intake Process for Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
The students’ contribution has significantly assisted the Pennsylvania prison system in streamlining the process of mass incarceration. Typically, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections usually receives not less than 1,000 inmates a week. All of them have to be allocated to one of its 25-correctional facilities.
However, the process isn’t that simple, for there’re about 100 factors to be considered before assigning an inmate to a specific housing facility. Among them include:
- Type of medical care they require
- Their ages
- Their families’ closeness to the prisons
- Type of programs the detainees need to qualify for parole
- Educational needs
- Security threats
New App Helps to Simplify Mass Incarceration in Pennsylvania Prisons
Before the students’ invention, it used to take seven corrections employees an entire week to assign the new inmates to the proper facilities.
Now, by just pushing a button, the program designed by the engineering students at Lehigh University does everything within 10-minutes. To prison loved ones, this is just another way to simplify mass incarceration within the State of Pennsylvania.
The new system is expected to:
- Save the allocation time at the correctional facility
- Ensure that prisoners get the necessary programs in time
- Cut the prison system’s expenses by $ 2.9 million annually
The Lehigh algorithm scrutinizes everything holistically and simultaneously. It also makes recommendations which are the most appropriate for everybody. It performs this function based on the type of resources that are available at the moment.
Implementing the System to Simplify Mass Incarceration
William Nicklow serves at the State Correctional Institution located in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, as a major. Nicklow supervised the installation of the system. Inmate Assignment Decision Support System’s implementation took about ten months to be ready for work.
The program was particularly even more useful this summer. During this time, Inmate Assignment Decision Support System reassigned 2,000 prisoners. Its contribution shined through, because by then, Pittsburgh’s State Correctional Institution had been closed, creating a shortage of facilities.
It was Gov. Tom Wolf who had ordered the closure as part of his plan:
- To curb the state’s deficit
- To address a nearly 4% reduction in inmate population over the recent years
The process had been anticipated to take 6-months. But with the help of the new program, it only took 4 1/2 months. Inmate Assignment Decision Support System is expected to save the $2.9 million from Pennsylvania’s annual budget both directly and indirectly.
For instance, it will ensure that the inmates are in their correct facility right from the start. This will thereby minimize the rate of transferring prisoners.
Since the state launched the utilization of this model 10-months ago, significant improvement has been felt. For instance, it has reduced the time for the prisoners awaiting to begin programs necessary for parole by 56 days.
How the Idea of Inmate Assignment Decision Support System Came About
Lehigh started designing Inmate Assignment Decision Support System, 5-years ago. Their action was prompted by the officials’ call for a comparatively better population management program.
Officials requests came after noting an increment in the population of young inmates per a facility. According to the state’s officials, such increase is usually accompanied by undesirable effects like fights.
Therefore, Corrections Department’s director of statistics, planning, and research looked into the problem and contacted potential universities and companies.
Inmate Assignment Decision Support System uses the similar optimization model to that used by the airline organization to assign passengers, and pilots to flights.