ID Cards Behind Bars
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), Austin, Texas, manages offenders in state prisons, state jails and private correctional facilities that contract with TDCJ. While some facilities process offenders at high-volume and others as few as 20-30 per week, each location needs identification tracking. Glen McMurray, program specialist for the Commissary and Trust Fund (CTF) department, administers the department’s ID card and mug shot program. McMurray talked to Government Security about how installing — and then upgrading — the ID card system has increased the department’s efficiency.
Q: Prior to installing an ID card system, how was identification processed at the TDCJ?
Glen McMurray (GM): Prior to ID cards, name and housing location were placed on the offender’s clothing. Script (paper money) was issued to use for purchases at the unit commissary. But the script was also used for extortion and gambling, which created security problems for the facility.
Q: When was the first photo ID system installed and how did it work?
GM: The first ID card system was installed in the late 1980s and was a very basic system. The offender’s photo was captured on film and the film cartridge was mailed to a vendor, which printed the cards and mailed them back for activation and distribution. All male offenders were processed through a single intake processing facility, which made it easy to distribute the ID card. But as technology improved, our ID cards systems improved.
Q: So new technology prompted you to upgrade your system?
GM: Yes. We were interested in a Web-based photo identification product. TDCJ has a good working relationship with Datacard, which offers a type of technology called ViaNet. The department had just completed a project to deliver high-speed Ethernet WAN to our prison facilities, which made our change to this new technology possible. Our current ID card system was installed in September 2002 and since then, we have grown from a single ID card workstation to 39 workstations across the state of Texas.
Q: How does the TDCJ rely on the system?
GM: The TDCJ uses the Datacard system to print ID cards and mug shots for offenders and ID cards for employees. Workstations are placed at all of our intake facilities where newly-received offenders have their mug shot captured.
Normally with an ID card program, you only capture the one image of the subject you wish to make a card of, but we capture two. A side profile and frontal image are captured and, with a laser jet printer, mug shots are printed of each offender. Offender images can be downloaded from the database for distribution by e-mail to other law enforcement officials for identification purposes.
The image and data are stored to a local database generally on the first day of arrival. At this point, a mug shot is printed of the offender. Once the offender has been added to the agency mainframe, a program matches the data entered by the operator with data on the mainframe. If there is an exact match, the data and image are moved to a database on the mainframe.
Q: What happens then?
GM: After a successful match, the record on the local workstation database is flagged and an ID card can be printed. The same process is used to print employee ID cards.
Q: Are there any other uses for the offender’s ID card than just for identification purposes?
GM: Offender ID cards are used by the commissaries to access the offender’s trust fund accounts when making purchases. Medical departments also use the cards for positive identification for issuing medications. Additionally, units use the cards to issue indigent supplies such as postage and envelopes and for positive identification for movement around a facility. The offender ID card has become a very useful tool in the management and operation of our facilities and programs.
Q: What security features are included on the ID cards?
GM: ID cards have data written to a magnetic stripe and printed as a bar code on the front. The TDCJ also opted to incorporate Datacard’s Duraguard polyester holographic overlay on a composite ID card to help meet the demands of a tough prison environment, and to make the card tamperproof.
Q: How has the ID card system improved your overall operations?
GM: The TDCJ had several different needs from a workstation standpoint. For example, some locations only needed to capture photos as required by state law. Datacard worked with the department to implement all of our different workstation requirements. Overall, the ID card system has performed well and met all of the needs of our ID card and mug shot program.