App keeps track of

COMPANY: Illinois Department of Corrections
PURPOSE: To keep track of the constantly shifting inmate population, while linking all prison facilities to critical information.

APPLICATION: Institution Graphics -- With more than 40,000 inmates housed in 26 adult correctional facilities, the Illinois Department of Corrections has a major job tracking the whereabouts of each inmate. Information on every inmate is stored on a mainframe located off-site at the state's data center. But for local prison administrators, accessing data from the mainframe was cumbersome and made even more difficult by the constantly shifting inmate population. Even after data was downloaded to the correct facility, prison staff had to wade through volumes of text-based reports to get critical information.

In the past year, officials began a project to make demographic prisoner data easier to access. Scot Lovdahl, DBA for the Springfield, Ill.-based department, was faced with finding a way to download updated data from the central mainframe to SQL databases at each prison.

The goal was to present local prison officials with quick access to prisoner information that was presented in an easy-to-read graphical report. While information needed to be shared between sites by internal investigators, it was important that only the information on the inmates housed at a particular prison be kept at that prison. Finally, it was necessary to find a way to quickly and accurately transfer that information as inmates were moved from one prison to another.

Lovdahl and his development team used PowerBuilder's RAD environment to create graphical representations of demographic categories such as age, race, gang affiliation, escape risk or aggression level.

The application uses Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise for the central database, which is linked to Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere databases at each prison. The system uses Adaptive Server Anywhere's bi-directional, message-based replication with SQL Remote to allow officials to download central database files on prisoners to the facility where they are being held. It also allows local officials to update the central database with data, including prisoner photos.

The new application has transformed the mainframe from a central data storage place to an active information center with new potential uses for the department. Investigators from other agencies can now access information on inmates at all locations. The department's internal investigators can also share information more easily between sites, including scanned images of evidence.

The new databases not only include information on inmates, but will have the capability to digitally store visitor fingerprints to aid in detecting visitors using aliases and false identification.

-- Rich Seeley


Marti Davenport

Lance Ely

David Lanterman

Scot Lovdahl

Ramon Santa Ana

The new application provides more information to prison staff, transfers records from one site to another more quickly, and allows internal investigators to share better intelligence and security data between sites.


Sybase's PowerBuilder


Off-site IBM CA-IDMS mainframe server located at State of Illinois data center running COBOL applications linked to on-site client/server network with Compaq
ProLiant 7000 servers running Windows NT 4.0 and Pentium PC clients running Windows 95.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.