There were a number of glaring IT problems facing the Illinois Department of Corrections. First, they were using green screens to access mainframe data. Second, they were unable to run reports as needed. And finally their mainframe staff was graying and the department's Cobol expertise retiring.
"We were fast approaching a period where there was no one to do support and maintenance," said Gladyse Taylor, assistant director of the state's corrections department.
To fix the problem, the department decided to completely revamp their operations. They are moving from an older IBM S/390 mainframe data to .Net applications that they are writing to run on a system built on the cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. They are moving data hosted on some other non-mainframe systems as well.
The department manages about 49,000 people who are in custody, 30,000 on parole, and it has 11,000 employees.
Federal and state governments have been adopting cloud-basedtechnologies and seem far less hesitant today to host sensitive data on physical servers not in their control. But most of these government migrations have been for email and productivity tools.
Taylor believes that they are early adopters among correction departments in moving to a cloud-based system.
The new system, called Offender-360, will reduce costs, but Taylor said she didn't want to speculate just yet what that return might be. They expect significant savings in paper reduction, improved staff efficiency, and hope that better management tools will improve recidivism rates, which will lower costs as well.
Some of the applications, including the Illinois Offender Tracking System, have been in production since the 1980s. The new system went into production in December, but it will take another year of work to complete the migration.
Report generation had been an impediment, and the new system allows the staff to generate their own reports as they see fit. That capability "has been novel," said Taylor.
The IT staff was trained by support providers on how to convert the applications to the new environment, said Taylor.
Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.