In 2009, the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) faced major challenges in effectively managing its offender population. The organization was using 42 separate applications to manage and track offenders, forcing employees to spend time searching for the data they needed to make informed decisions, and some requests for data could take up to 30 days. Illinois DOC had huge gaps in information as a result of its antiquated system, which contributed to a mistake involving the early release of some offenders. It was clear that the organization responsible for 50,000 inmates needed a more reliable, secure and efficient way to work.

Illinois DOC officials initially thought it would take tens of millions of dollars to build a system that could help personnel manage, track and identify offenders. Officials investigated acquiring a data warehouse, data marts, a business intelligence reporting tool, middleware to coordinate between applications, a document management system and a comprehensive corrections suite. But, given its annual operating budget, acting CIO Herbert Quinde knew that was not an option.

Instead, Quinde turned to Microsoft's Dynamics CRM platform, which allowed Illinois DOC to integrate paper and electronic documents on each offender that were scattered in the disparate systems into one easy-to-locate form. Illinois DOC's small IT programming staff worked with the agency's non-technical staff to design and develop the new system, which tracks the offender from initial incarceration through reentry to society. The lead developer on the project was an ex-prison guard who had recently received his bachelor's degree in computer sciences. Microsoft provided technical training and installation support through a systems integration partner. The technology is in the pilot phase, and initial deployment will be complete by the end of the year.

With the CRM system, Illinois DOC staff can retrieve all relevant background on each inmate using a single click instead of navigating 17 mainframe screens and numerous client-server applications. Reports that used to take 30 days to verify now take a fraction of the time. In total, Illinois DOC is upgrading its offender tracking system for about 15 percent of the cost it originally expected, and it is implementing the system in half the amount of time, resulting in a quicker time to more effective operations and safer communities.

Project: Inmate information system
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Agency: Department of Corrections
Vendor: Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft
Expected completion: December 2011 (Phase I)