Thursday, November 20, 2008

CDCR Goes “Online” with Computerized Inmate Funds System

System will aid in victim restitution collections

SACRAMENTO - Beginning this week, The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) started using a statewide inmate funds system that will make it easier to track and account for funds that families give to inmates, monies that inmates earn, and will ease the department’s responsibility to ensure victims with court-mandated restitution orders receive their payment.

The program, called The Trust Restitution Accounting Canteen System (TRACS) replaces three obsolete applications and will be used statewide at all 33 adult institutions for the more than 170,000 inmates incarcerated in California.

Susan Fisher, who serves as Governor Schwarzenegger's Crime Victim Advocate, lauded this effort as another step forward for victims in their ongoing effort to achieve restitution from convicted felons who have court-ordered restitution.

"We are excited about the obvious benefits to victims that this system brings to all victims with restitution orders," said Fisher. "When restitution is collected and tracked more efficiently, benefits can be dispersed more quickly.

“This allows the Department to provide more comprehensive services to victims of crime, public agencies, and the CDCR adult offender population at a lower cost,” said Suzan Hubbard, Director for the Division of Adult Institutions. The seamlessly integrated system utilizes a single central database where data is entered one time and accessed from multiple locations throughout the State.

TRACS provides improved tracking and generates increased collections of court-ordered restitution obligations from offenders on behalf of victims.

“This project has been so long in coming but never lost its momentum, since it was first envisioned more than eight years ago,” said Sandi Menefee, Assistant Secretary over the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services. The office has seen restitutions collections increase steadily as technology has been harnessed to ensure victims receive court-ordered restitution.

The TRACS program interfaces electronically with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and the Franchise Tax Board, allowing for restitution collections from parolees and individuals no longer under the jurisdiction of CDCR. This enhances the State’s ability to more effectively honor victims’ rights to restitution, as guaranteed by the California Constitution.

Improved restitution tracking facilitates payment of restitution obligations. This is especially pertinent to parolees who wish to reside out of state, which is not permissible by law until restitution obligations have been fully satisfied. In these win/win situations, victims receive their just restitution payment, while parolees, who may have a better chance of rehabilitation in a different locale, are able to fulfill their obligations in a streamlined manner.

California Law authorizes CDCR to provide offenders with the ability to purchase goods from stores within the institutions, otherwise known as canteens. Inmate funds held in Trust are readily available for purchases and inmates benefit from increased accuracy and accessibility to their trust account balances.

“TRACS implementation highlights the department’s continuing efforts to utilize information technology such as role-based single sign-on access via Active Directory in partnership with the Department of Technology Services (DTS), and implementing high-availability, redundancy, and fault tolerant operational recovery to transform and safeguard offender management business practices.” said Joe Panora, CDCR Assistant Secretary/ Agency Information Officer.

With the statewide deployment of TRACS, CDCR went a step further in improving the department’s information technology environment while achieving its performance objectives, Panora added. The project was successfully completed on time and under budget.

TRACS was first implemented at the Department’s adult female institutions in early August as a pilot. The pilot deployment was closely monitored and lessons learned were employed prior to going live at the remaining thirty adult CDCR correctional facilities.

The new software solution was customized for CDCR by Advanced Technologies Group, Inc, a privately held company with a proven solution that was successfully deployed at the Federal Bureau of Prisons and has been operational since April 2004.

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