BetaGov: Electronic Cell Check System
Improving Resident Safety
The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) policy requires two cell checks every hour (no more than forty minutes apart) in the special management unit (SMU) at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution (TSCI), to ensure safety of its residents. Documentation shows that 90% of TSCI's cell-check problems come from this housing unit. Working with the BetaGov initiative of Professor Angela Hawken's Litmus Program at Marron, TSCI tested an electronic cellcheck system that requires staff to touch an electronic wand to a specially installed button on the housing unit to document that cells were checked. The system provides a report showing times of checks. The usual manual procedure requires that staff check cells and then write in a log the time that they were checked. Supervisors spot check the log to see that checks are conducted as required and that the logs are completed. Manual checks may inaccurately reflect check times, and can be inaccurately documented to indicate checks done as required. This trial tested cell-check technology to determine the usefulness of the system to enable timely and defensible cell checks. The trial also hoped to give supervisors an avenue for more prompt feedback or correction.
Over the three-month trial, 100% of electronic cell checks were reported accurately in the intervention galleries, and 10.6% of electronic cell checks were correctly documented as late or missing. Random video checks of the control galleries revealed that only 56% of the checks were completed accurately, with discrepancies between the videotape and the log regarding completed checks and the timeliness of the checks. Results suggest that the electronic system encourages timely cell checks given the automated documentation.