Doing Time without Walking the Line

An Oracle-based SOA speeds inmate processing for Corrections Corporation of America.

Introducing SOA is normally touted as a way for businesses to speed processes and improve the customer experience. It turns out a service-oriented architecture can be pretty useful for streamlining transactions even when the users arent in all that much of a hurry to complete the deal.

Corrections Corporation of America specializes in just such a captive market. With 65 correctional, detention and juvenile facilities in 19 states, CCA is the nations largest provider of corrections management services to government agencies. It builds and runs jails. And with more than 72,000 beds to fill—and never a shortage of inmates to fill them—keeping prisoner processing running quickly and accurately is more than just a simple return on investment issue.

"This is a matter of security as well as efficiency," said John Pfeiffer, CIO for CCA, in Nashville, Tenn. "Our employees are not key-punch operators. They are there to ensure the safety of the staff and the inmates. When they are concentrating on looking at forms, they are not concentrating on the prisoners. Thats a problem."

The challenges for CCA stem not just from the volume of records associated with each inmate but also from the need to share all that data with the variety of state and local governments that contract with CCA to run their facilities.

Many times, Pfeiffer said, CCA employees fill out their own forms only to have to duplicate that effort on government forms. And CCA maintains many different kinds of incarceration facilities, from juvenile detention sites to federal prisons, each with its own data requirements.

"We needed to introduce technology that would ensure a secure incarceration experience for our customers, our staff and for the inmates," Pfeiffer said. "Part of our responsibility is exchanging accurate and timely data with every one of our customers. And any technology must not only increase quality, but increase profit to our shareholders as well."

Pfeiffers team began in 2005 by focusing on problems at CCA facilities in Hamilton County. At that point, employees booking new inmates had to enter information into Hamilton County terminals then re-enter much of the same data into CCA systems. Prison officials wanted to eliminate those manual, error-prone processes by replicating information between the two systems. So, in an effort to wring out such inefficiencies, CCA began working with solution provider BIAS in Atlanta to implement a SOA built on Oracles Fusion Middleware set up specifically to serve CCAs Hamilton County operations.

Four developers from CCA and BIAS spent two months on the project, leveraging the open- standards-based Oracle BPEL Process Manager to develop flexible, adaptable and extensible business processes, officials said.

In the new SOA-based system, inmates can be prebooked into CCA with defendant identification, charges and insurance information. On arrival at CCA, the inmate is booked, photographed and assigned a CCA ID number.

The Hamilton County jail system is then updated in real time with the information from CCA, along with an electronic image of the inmate. During the business process flow, errors can be detected and e-mail notifications sent to initiate corrective action. The integration processes include some 50 activities in 10 main BPEL process flows, with message payloads ranging from 1KB to 500KB.

"We defined each type of data—intake, cell assignment, inmate banking records—as a service," Pfeiffer said. "That way, we have services that can work with any customer system."

CCAs system depends on several Oracle Fusion Middleware components—including Oracle Application Server 10g, Oracle BPEL Process Manager 10g, Oracle JDeveloper 10g and Oracle Database 10g. Another key aspect of the integration is the use of the Global JXDM (Justice XML Data Model) standard. Sponsored by the Department of Justice, Global JXDM is an XML standard designed specifically for criminal justice information exchanges, giving law enforcement a reliable, scalable way to share data.

"I think the CCA project is a perfect example of how a truly integrated, easy-to-use, all-in-one platform takes a lot of the difficulty out of getting started and being successful with SOA," said Kevin Clugage, product director for Fusion Middleware at Oracle, in Redwood Shores, Calif. "Each project has enough complexity on its own. With our platform, you get single-click install [and] easy management, and you can start putting your system to work."

The resulting system, according to CCA officials, delivers efficient booking and processing of inmates that reduces data error and accelerates inmate entry time. Bad for prisoners, good for CCA. In fact, the system lets CCA book new prisoners 25 percent faster, while processing errors have been reduced more than 95 percent over the previous paper-based method. The system is now used to process 10 to 15 inmates per day.

John Ezzell, vice president of BIAS, said Oracles complete feature set in its integrated development platform worked particularly well for the CCA engagement. "With Oracle Fusion Middleware, we reduced the cost and complexity of these integration projects for CCA," Ezzell said. "This project could have taken a year to implement with traditional integration products. It was completed within two months using Oracle BPEL Process Manager."