PETS eases prisoner transfers

Corrections officials in Wisconsin counties are saving money and aggravation with software developed using Microsoft Corp.'s .Net services to monitor the transfer of prisoners between courts, jails and other correctional facilities.

About 18 months ago, the sheriff of Douglas County, Wis., told Phil Brandsey, chief executive officer of Emerald Systems Inc. of Spooner, Wis., about the problems the county had scheduling prisoner transfers. The sheriff said he often went to a state facility to pick up a prisoner, only to find that the neighboring county also had prisoners who needed transport, duplicating law enforcement efforts and travel costs.

Nobody knew about the transfers in advance. It was irritating, time-consuming and expensive, requiring a lot of phone calls and faxes, Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec said.

Brandsey suggested they work together to develop a server-based program for tracking transfers. Within 60 days, 54 county sheriffs had agreed to test the prisoner exchange and transport scheduling, or PETS, application.

PETS took about a year and a half to develop with Microsoft VisualStudio.Net and C#. It went live in December 2003, using a Micro-soft SQL Server 2000 database management system.

Corrections officials in all 72 Wisconsin counties now can access PETS. With more than 30,000 transfers a year, the projected annual savings is about $3 million.

The PETS application has a space for comments, so the officers who physically transfer a prisoner know in advance if there is a history of violence or communicable disease.

Brandsey said the PETS application soon will be available to counties in other states. It is one of the first large-scale uses of Microsoft's C# .Net tools ever, Brandsey said.

"We built PETS with the understanding that it could go nationwide and support very broad Web services," he said. The application could potentially support prisoner transfers at the state, local and federal levels, he said.

PETS also could track sexual offenders across state borders. A state could set up a .Net service to transmit data about a sex offender's transfer to law enforcement agencies elsewhere, as well as update federal databases and notify Victim Information and Notification Everyday groups. The automated VINE services tell victims when offenders are released from or escape from prison, or are transferred to another facility.

The technology is ready, Brandsey said, but it would have to be integrated with existing government systems. *

Trudy Walsh is a senior editor with Government Computer News. She can be reached at twalsh@postnewsweektech.com.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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