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November 1, 2013

"Did a murderer and a sex offender just save Oklahoma $20 million?"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent Washington Post report, which struck my fancy on a Friday morning.  Here is the explanation:

Bobby Cleveland, an Oklahoma state representative, had some questions about the amount of money being spent at Joseph Harp Correctional Center.  As chairman of the state House’s Public Safety Committee, state prisons fall under his jurisdiction.  But on a tour of the prison facility, he and two fellow representatives found something they didn’t expect: a software program written by two inmates that could save the prison, and maybe the state, a lot of money.

The program tracks inmates as they proceed through food lines, to make sure they don’t go through the lines twice, Cleveland said in an interview.  It can help the prison track how popular a particular meal is, so purchasers know how much food to buy in the future. And it can track tools an inmate checks out to perform their jobs.  “It’s a pretty neat program. It’s all done by the direction of the supervisor, one of these guys who’s kind of, what do you call it, thinking outside the box,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland said the program, if implemented statewide, could save Oklahoma up to $20 million a year.  It can also track incoming shipments of food and supplies — and catch discrepancies, like the one that raised red flags with Cleveland and his colleagues, state Reps. Scott Martin (R) and Jason Murphey (R).  The software showed that Sysco, which supplies food to the state prison system, was charging the state different prices for the same food item sent to two different facilities....

The program came to lawmakers’ attention when Cleveland took a tour of the facility without the prison warden around.  He brought his colleagues to a subsequent visit to hear about the program. “It does kind of expose the waste at all the other facilities. It was just one of those genuine, lightning-strikes things,” Murphey said....

The supervisor, William Weldon, worked with two technologically-savvy inmates to develop the program.  Prisoners each have a bar code they can scan, which then shows prison officials who has eaten a meal, or checked out a spatula before a shift in the kitchen, or borrowed a pair of gloves to scrub dishes after a meal.  Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, said prison officials at Joseph Harp have used the software for about two years.

The software could even help save the state from lawsuits. Cleveland said several prisoners have sued over being denied special meals, whether for medical or religious reasons.  When an inmate’s bar code is scanned, prison officials would be alerted that they should receive a diabetic meal, or a Halal or Kosher meal....

The Department of Corrections wouldn’t identify the inmates who created the program, beyond saying that one of them is a sex offender and one is serving a sentence for murder.  They may not be the most savory characters, but the program appears to be working. “They built a system that could save the state millions of dollars,” Cleveland said. “I want to get the state using this thing.”

November 1, 2013 at 07:54 AM | Permalink


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October 22, 2013 | Florida Killer Given Execution Date | : The Associated Press reports that Askari Abdullah Muhammad, formally known as
Thomas Knight, was convicted of murdering a prison guard in 1980 while he was already on death row for two previous murders he committed
six years earlier. While awaiting trial for the execution-style murders of Sidney and Lillian Gans …

October 7, 2013: | Kansas Inmate Gets 22 Additional Years After Attacking Guard | : A murderer [Wilkerson] was serving a 50 year sentence for murder and
attempted murder when he attacked the guard. | Posted by CJLF Staff |

Unusual & unlikely $ Monetary $ benefit from feeding & keeping a murderer alive;
Unbroken & undiluted Innocent Life, Safety, and Justice benefits from speedily executing a murderer.

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 1, 2013 1:36:31 PM

“They built a system that could save the state millions of dollars,...”

Funny, when you actually give 'unsavory characters' a second chance how much good they can actually contribute. Now if only we could get more people, especially the politicians/overseers that have oversight of the 'justice' system, to do some "...what do you call it, thinking outside the box,...” Lordy, lordy now who could a 'thunk sech a thang' was possible from a felon.

Posted by: thad | Nov 1, 2013 6:27:43 PM

Now for the 64 million dollar question. Any bets the two "unsavory characters" even got a figgin dame for this wonder program they have been using for the last TWO years and now want to take state wide if not nation wide?

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 1, 2013 6:51:43 PM

Better yet how about some kind of sentencing considerations for their efforts.

Posted by: thad | Nov 1, 2013 7:03:48 PM

I do believe the real question is why wasn't something like this in place already? Especially keeping track of tools, I would think that would be a real security concern inside prison. As for going through the line twice, so long as the inmate actually eats the food I don't see that as a huge problem (although I could potentially see smuggling food away from the serving areas as an issue, things like taking fruit and fermenting them in secret).

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 1, 2013 7:15:30 PM

At prison pay rates, prison industries should be competitive with the cheapest foreign labor, including consulting subcontracts for security consulting.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 2, 2013 10:45:15 AM

lol i'm sure there was a sytem soronel. but from what my brother inlaw has said. it was probably a spiral notebook and dumb luck!

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 2, 2013 10:10:46 PM


In prison kitchens and workshops, there is usually a box where the knives or tools hang when not in use. A silhouette of the knife is painted in its place in the box. At the end of every shift, the box has to be full or no one leaves shift. For larger tools, etc., in workshops, they use a count method. The flaw is that they often don't keep track of who used which tool, so if one goes missing everyone on shift is accountable. Some prisons use discs or chits like the ones miners used when they went down the shaft, stamped with an identifying number. Again, though, they can be lost or misused by another. The bar code may ( or may not) solve these problems.

Posted by: defendergirl | Nov 3, 2013 9:07:03 PM

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