There can be no doubt that technology has and will continue to change society. And while the corrections industry has traditionally been slow to change, the impact of technology on the corrections field is unmistakable. It was not long ago that the use of technology in the nation's institutions was basically limited to such devices as two-way radios, chemical agents and metal detectors. Today, the corrections field is becoming more and more aware of the infinite possibilities offered by technology and is actually putting these technologies to use. Biometric systems are being used for access control; location and tracking systems are monitoring inmates' movements throughout a facility in real time; and, through telemedicine, inmates are receiving medical and psychiatric services without leaving the facility.
In a relatively short period of time, the industry has seen tremendous growth in both the depth and breadth of technological solutions available to corrections. The corrections field is seeing new technologies developed specifically for correctional use as well as the adaptation and modification of technologies originally created for other purposes. All of this new technology is exciting and holds great promise, but beware the double-edged sword. The opportunities created by the availability of new technology do not come without challenges. There has never been more technology to choose from and this is both the good news and the bad news. Decisions regarding if and how technology should be implemented are great challenges fraught with pitfalls, and the stakes only grow greater as price tags rise.
With the increased role of technology in corrections, it has never been more important for agencies to effectively evaluate, select and implement these tools. One mechanism becoming more commonly used by state-level correctional agencies is a formal evaluation committee. These groups may be known by several different names, including technology review committees, product evaluation committees and technology transfer committees. The names and the primary mission of these committees may vary from state to state, but there are several key, common purposes that they serve.
Internal and External Focal Point
Formal technology review committees can provide an agency with a single point of contact and a process by which all technology is introduced. The committee becomes the focal point for technology vendors and they are funneled through a centralized process so that individual institutions are not contacted on an ad-hoc basis. Internally, the technology committee serves as the point of contact for any staff member who recognizes a need area or potential technology solution that should be considered. One important side benefit from this approach is that the committee can serve to help protect the chief executive from being approached directly by vendors that may have political ties. Vendors also benefit...