Smart phones, smart watches, smart speakers, smart TVs, smart dish washers— It makes you wonder why we ever bothered making dumb products to begin with. Every year, more and more of these smart devices hit the market. But in the last decade since the phrase “Internet of Things” was termed, the concept never really made it to forefront of community-based law enforcement: The County Jail. Encartele aims to change that. By bringing the best features of smart devices to smaller correctional facilities, we mean to make the smart jail a nationwide reality.
But what makes a jail smart? Is it some combination of gadgets, WiFi hotspots, and robot vacuum cleaners? Not at all. In actuality, there are five key attributes that make up a smart jail: Autonomy, Interconnectivity, Passivity, Control, and Analytics. In the following paragraphs, we’ll break down how each of these concepts apply to county jails.
Earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and social unrest can’t be allowed to influence the day-to-day operations of a jail, especially if those disasters are happening in far-off places. A smart jail needs to be semi-autonomous if it’s going to rely on technological solutions. This means that the software and hardware inside a jail shouldn’t be overly reliant on external vendors or licenses. When multiple third-parties are introduced into the jail technology mix, that means there will be more break-points for critical functions. Limiting break-points is a foundational pillar of the corrections field.
Just because the critical functions of a smart jail are managed with an iron grip doesn’t mean other software and hardware implementations should be ignored. A smart jail should welcome integrations with numerous vendors to supply the best-possible services to inmates and their friends and families. But more than that, the technologies inside a smart jail should work in concert. The digital signage should change based on what inmates talk about over the phone; video visitation and video arraignment applications should track the same kinds of computer glitches; and jail-environment sensors should warn kiosk devices when temperature/humidity could affect hardware performance.
Smart jails should have functions which are easy to operate, sure, but functions which operate on their own in the background are even more beneficial. It’s nice to be able to run a video visitation usage report whenever you want to, but it’s even better to receive a video visitation report every Monday without lifting a finger. “There’s a lot of automation that can happen that isn’t a replacement of humans but of mind-numbing behavior,” and that’s exactly what we’re aiming for. Automate what can be automated, and let the corrections professionals get back to work.
C’mon, you had to know this would make the list. For an institutional system DEFINED by its ability to control the movements and habits of its inmates, control is paramount. The smart jail is no different. Absolute facility control goes hand-in-hand with absolute system control, and smart jail administrators must have the biggest ring of keys when it comes to their technology. In itself, this is a relatively simple goal to accomplish, until you consider the realities of organizational management. Should the jail administrator be the only person who can process and review inmate commissary requests? Hell no! That’s why the smart jail makes delegation a priority, while the administrators maintain total control.
Some problems are too large to be solved with gut instinct alone. Worsening mental health, recidivism, and post-incarceration outcomes for inmates are enormous problems. Without the proper information, society doesn’t stand a chance at solving them. However, smart jails can provide the proper data, or at least part of it. Technological innovations allow us to generate metrics for anything we can dream of. Want to know how likely an inmate is to commit another crime upon release? Want to know which state facilities are the most at-risk for inciting a riot? A smart jail can provide that information. With the insights provided by accurate, predictive analytics, law enforcement and correctional officials will have the ability to enact criminal justice reform from the ground up.
Final Thoughts on the Smart Jail
Big or small, any jail can become a smart jail. These attributes don’t depend on bed size or the population of your county, they depend on a correctional official’s willingness to grow. Building a smart jail is not a risk-free, passive, sit-on-the-couch-and-make-tons-of-money venture. You’ve got to be committed to excellence (and no one better fits that description than jail administrators). Naysayers are going to say nay, but making the world a better place is not for the faint of heart. Nationwide criminal justice reform is possible, and smart jails will be driving that change.