CRANSTON, R.I. – June 25, 2007 – Information sharing within the Rhode Island Department of Corrections became a lot easier and reentry efforts took a giant step forward when the Transition from Prison to Community Data System (TPCDS) became operational in mid April. The system’s design dates back to 2004 when a committee was first formed to consider needs and options, but those on the Rehabilitative Services side of the house have been keenly aware of the potential benefits of such a tool for many years.
“The TPCDS database allows us to access and share information equally as important as the public safety information captured in our INFACTS, system” notes Roberta Richman, assistant director, rehabilitative services. “It will enable us to effectively plan for the safe return of our inmates back to the community, providing us with an important step forward in our reentry efforts.”
The new system tracks assessments and program data for all of the RIDOC’s sentenced inmates. TPCDS functions include: Inmate Details (demographic and basic sentencing information pulled from INFACTS but with additional family information); Level of Service Inventory - Revised (all LSIRs done on an inmate including total scores and scores for individual risk areas); Program Record (including all programs an inmate has completed or has been recommended to, as well as rank and comment from program providers); Inmate Photos; Incarceration Details; Intake Assessment (completed by the
Classification Counselors at Intake and including all information necessary to accurately classify an offender); Intake Recommendations (provides the initial Classification Board the opportunity to recommend programs they feel would be appropriate for the offender based on the assessment information); Institutional Assessment (focusing primarily on education and employment); Program Plan (for use by program counselors who can tailor a plan to an inmate’s needs based on intake assessment and classification recommendations); Parole Plan (housing and employment information which will be provided to the Parole Board in advance of an offender’s hearing); and a Reentry Plan (details of the inmate’s plan for transition back to the community).
“This is data we have been recording all along,” notes Ken Findlay, professional services coordinator, “but the information was all over the place – on file cards, in notebooks, on desktops and PCs…and couldn’t be shared. Now we have a single database that includes everything in one place.”
Historically, the RIDOC hasn’t been good at information sharing, so there were instances of volunteers, providers, and staff working with the same inmate but not knowing what the other was doing. Now the adult counselor will be the conduit through which all information on the offender will be shared.
TPCDS is web-enabled, so it will eventually be accessible by service providers outside of the DOC. Users are regularly being added, and old program information is being incorporated, but “it will be about five to six years before we’ll have a good sample size to analyze the data,” notes Greg Bianco of Planning & Research, one of the designers of the program.
Lisa Holley, Chair of the Rhode Island Parole Board, is looking forward to utilizing the TPCDS in its parole release decision-making process. She notes, “The data system will provide the Board with the most current and comprehensive information on candidates for parole. The automation and integration of the newly-designed parole risk instrument will provide the members with validated and evidence-based risk levels to consider prior to granting early release.”
In the days before TPCDS, discharge planners had to record their discharge plans in Microsoft Word and then e-mail them to the Probation and Parole Officer. Now the planner can enter the data
Dawn Allen, program coordinator with Fellowship, the agency contracted to provide mental health counseling to inmates, feels the TPCDS will make her job much easier. “The TPCDS is a great addition to Reentry Services,” she notes. “It will open the lines of communication between all service providers at the DOC and will allow us to quickly gather the necessary information to better serve our clients.”
Funding for the TPCDS has been provided through federal grant money. This is essentially a multimillion dollar project that has cost the state nothing.