eSCRIBE is known and respected for their paperless meeting management software. It’s a powerful tool of automation that allows for greater efficiency, transparency and accessibility. However, when the Northern Territory Parole Board of Australia called, eSCRIBE took on the challenge of using their product in an unconventional way. By integrating it into an established and trusted correctional services software, Integrated Offender Management System, (IOMS), eSCRIBE provided just the right solution for this overwhelmed Parole Board. The profound improvement in communication resulted in streamlined processes with multiple agencies that allowed for new voices heard, justice served and a safer, happier community. Here’s the story from down under.
Parole Board of the Northern Territory
The Parole Board of the Northern Territory is an independent statutory body who make decisions about the parole of prisoners in the best interests of the community as a whole, including the offender and the victim. (2012 Annual Report). Granting parole allows a prisoner to serve the balance of his sentence in the community under strict conditions and is proven to enhance chances of becoming a member of society who is free of a criminal lifestyle.
Increased Workloads and Governance Fatigue
In 2012 the Parole Board was taxed and overwhelmed. Imprisonment rates in the Northern Territory were sky high and the two correctional facilities, Darwin Correctional Centre and Alice Springs Correctional Centre were beyond their capacity. This dramatically increased the workload of the Parole Board but decisions weren’t getting reached either because the board had too little or too much information. Real governance fatigue was setting in.
Integrated Offender Management System (IOMS) is the internally developed software for the prison system that suits their specific needs as it manages an inmate’s entire lifecycle through the system. It’s trusted, respected and used by all vested parties who come in contact with the prisoner; medical, psychological, assigned work and custody reports, parole officers, aboriginal initiatives etc. But these files were thick and growing by the day.
A Critical Juncture
With government dollars stretched and prisons beyond capacity a budding political issue was on the horizon. Action to increase efficiency was at a critical juncture and the board needed to find a solution.
The Board examined Microsoft SharePoint as a solution to the electronic management of meetings. Further research considered their own IOMS system and business process improvements – it was discovered that because so many other parties and social agencies used IOMS it needed to remain as the ‘source of truth’ with regards to offender management. All documents to be used by the parole board should be accessed through this system. However, it was in dire need of updating. Background work involved the scanning of hard copy records for active clients with each document saved and named individually so they could be uploaded into IOMS.
Major changes and business process improvements were made to IOMS but it was now cumbersome so after consultation and research eSCRIBE was brought on board to overlay SharePoint and deliver a user friendly and efficient product. eSCRIBE would take the files of consolidated meeting packages to be sent electronically and then integrated into the IOMS. The resulting unconventional hybrid was made possible because of SharePoint. It dramatically improved this Parole Board efficiency.
Innovation and Empowerment
A parole board that is empowered with information is innovative. Partnerships in the community were enhanced and improved. The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJT) works to bridge the cultural and language divide for a population that makes up an incredibly high percentage of prison population. Together with the Board, the NAAJA realized that the 89% of parole breaches were due to language barriers and so a new partnership was formed to explain terms and conditions of release in a culturally sensitive way. Because of the stronger alliances and solid partnerships in the community, the number of prisoners on parole is up and the number of breaches down.
Six Figure Cost Savings
The resulting costs savings to government by lowering parole breach is well into high six figures.
After two quick years of eSCRIBE’s integration into IOMS, in 2014 the Parole Board increased its size from 10 members to 18. Together with the newly written Parole Board Manual and eSCRIBE training on the iPad, this effective Parole Board works in the interest of the community. Adoption was easy and now twice the number of members representing victims’ rights are on the Board and the number of people representing the diverse community has also doubled, up from 5 to 10. All parties at the table have a stronger voice – prisoner support, youth justice advocacy, victim impact and outside agencies who bridge the gap as the inmate is released and makes his way back to citizenry.
More than Savings, a Stronger, Safer Community
eSCRIBE’s impact went beyond their strong reputation of an efficient, cost savings, eco-friendly product – it helped build a stronger, safer community by allowing more voices to be heard and empowering those voices. It enhanced the power and effectiveness of social agencies helping the parolee. It gave a stronger voice to those affected by crime. And it afforded more inmates an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of freedom. Hard to put price on that.