A database of offenders
A database of offenders

Jun 1, 2000 12:00 PM

The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP) has created a system that lets agents maintain a complete photographic history and database of every parolee under supervision. Using a digital camera and IDenticard Systems software, the pardon and parole board takes photos of all offenders every six months or whenever an offender's appearance changes.

How it all started Prior to installing the IDenticard system, pardon and parole board agents relied on memory and Polaroid pictures of offenders. The pictures were shared among agencies by faxing photocopies, which resulted in significant loss of quality. Another problem was a limited number of cameras; parolees had to appear at central district offices to be photographed. It was difficult to keep information current, and offenders often found excuses not to make the shoots. In addition, there was no way to link the photographs with other historical and biographical data.

The pardon and parole board needed a system to tie all the information in the existing database in to a complete offender pictorial album. "The IDenticard system is the link between the pictures and the data already collected in our data warehouse," says Tom Barber, PBPP director of bureau information.

The Identicard IVIS Plus digital imaging system was delivered in July 1999 and as of May 2000, all 24 sites are operational. At the end of 1999, 22,000 offenders were under PBPP supervision. Since January, more than 14,000 identification pictures have been taken.

Although the various users of PBPP data worked on different computer systems, PBPP adapted IDenticard's software system to be a translator, thus allowing interagency/inter-system communication.

Since the IDenticard product is Open Database Connectivity (ODBC)- compliant and not proprietary, it could be customized to offer database capability using only software.

The software also links the information in PBPP's database to the photographs. The application PBPP built pulls data from the IDenticard component and stores it in the PBPP system. The data can then be sent from PBPP to any other agency electronically as needed. This capability is not restricted to use by Pennsylvania agencies. E-mail allows data to be shared globally, if necessary. In the future, the data warehouse will be used to enable authorities to do demographic searches - retrieve all the offenders meeting specific criteria - for investigative purposes. Data without pictures is sent to National Crime Information Center. The biggest impact is the ability for 10 agencies to share photos on the Pennsylvania Justice Network.

Cost-and task-effective "One of the most valuable aspects of this system," says Michael Schellhammer, director of the PBPP system division, "is that IDenticard's product could be modified entirely by in-house staff. There is virtually no outside technical support required. Instead, we used the product's capabilities as they were designed to build a state-of-the-art communications system. For about the same cost as buying another proprietary system that would serve only 10 locations, PBPP was able to equip all 24 PBPP sites and apply the rest of the allocated funds to other projects. And they were able to do it in a remarkably short time."

Supervision is still necessary The system functions as an adjunct to and an enhancement of one-on-one contact between parolees and their parole officers. Observation of a parolee's behavior - at work, athome, in the parole office - cannot be replaced by a photograph. Data drawn from random access memory is not a substitute for random drug tests. But PBPP's system does make it easier to maintain contact with parolees - whether the offenders want to maintain that contact or not.

Proud of what they have accomplished, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole officials are looking forward to demonstrating their product to other states' corrections officials.

For information about the system PBPP is using, contact Vicki Wilken, director of legislative affairs and communications at (717) 787-6208.

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