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Q&A: Typewriters

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

Typewriters, ink ribbon, are used every day at the facility to keep activity logs. In each individual area of the facility, logs are kept by security staff to detail the events of a shift in a particular area. These logs are kept for all areas, around the clock, 365 days a year. These logs are turned in, compiled over a period of time and ultimately stored in a box, in a non-secure area of on facility grounds. In a Zoom meeting in June, open to anyone who wanted to attend, with the Worthington Democratic Town Committee, Sheriff Cahillane was pressed on this issue by meeting participants after I highlighted it as a glaring fault of the facility in my meeting with the same group. He stated he only became aware typewriters were an issue during this campaign, and at no time prior. The Sheriff stated that paper logs are more difficult to tamper with and for evidentiary purposes, he continues to advocate for typewriters.

There are these things called printers...

When documents are saved after altering, not only does it change the time stamp on the document, but it also changes the size of the file. There are simple ways to make all documents locked after saving and give permission to only certain people, IT or Executive Administration staff perhaps, to make changes. When those changes are made to a locked document, it is very easy to see who logged on to make the changes, when changes were made and what changes were made if when resaving, you create a new document rather than replacing the old document. These are changes I would make. All of these things are standard practice when dealing with confidential or sensitive materials. Storing sensitive documents in a box in an outbuilding seems less than secure, particularly if the Sheriff himself is concerned with tampering and evidence preservation.

There are these things called secure servers...

At the beginning of Sheriff Cahillane’s term, at his direction, the facility servers were upgraded in order to prevent a system collapse and meet facility needs. The resources to safely and securely store logs on a digital system have been available to the facility since the very beginning of the Sheriff’s time in office. When we talk about these logs, they detail names and events with identifying information on them for both staff and incarcerated individuals. It is irresponsible to be so cavalier with this information in this day and age, particularly as an elected official entrusted with the care and safety of both incarcerated individuals and staff.

In each and every instance of a typewriter being used to keep a log, that typewriter sits next to a computer with software on it that could do everything that the facility needs it to do in terms of: logs, records keeping, housing changes, visitor logs, treatment notes, the aggregation of communications between departments and staff, medical concerns and notices, mental health alerts, monitoring status etc. etc. etc. And this is just in the security documentation. These same capabilities exist, but are not being tapped into, in Medical and Treatment record keeping if only there was a vision for more and a drive towards improvement. The possibilities are so vast and have the potential to streamline workflow, increase productivity, increase efficiency and create information security which is presently non-existent. This is a simple fix on Day 1 of my Administration. The software exists to do this NOW and has since 2015 at the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office. There are power points available for staff to view to learn how to maintain records better. There is support from the software company to teach staff how to do anything we want. The issue when the software was rolled out, which Sheriff Cahillane was instrumental in deciding upon, was that next to no instruction to staff was given and there has been no push of the current Administration to expand on its use from what was first implemented in 2015.

The process should be ever evolving. The software that is used at the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office is used at the vast majority of all other HOCs in this state and is good software. This program should be utilized for all standard record keeping, workflow and interdepartmental communications. This is low hanging fruit. This is a simple fix. The facility is staffed with many young, tech savvy staff who grew up in the digital age and for whom technology is a native language. The solution is as simple as a powerpoint presentation, a phone call to another agency to set up a demonstration to mid-level and senior staff on its use and/or an info session from the IT professionals at the software company on implementation. What this will take is leadership. Someone to come in and decide that 1970s technology is no longer acceptable in a facility that wants to be taken seriously as a modern correctional facility. There is not a soul that takes us seriously as a modern correctional facility while we still use ink ribbon typewriters. Not. A. Soul.

The Hampshire Sheriff’s Office is archaic in how it creates, maintains, protects and stores documentation. It is clear that Sheriff Cahillane lacks the vision for what could be. If you can’t imagine the possibilities of something like this, and surround yourself with a curated inner circle of staff who for one reason or another never express an alternate vision, then how could we expect change to happen? Part of being Sheriff is accepting that you don’t know everything. Part of being a good Sheriff is surrounding yourself with people who fill in the gaps of your knowledge. Part of being a successful Sheriff is listening to those people. It is time the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office experienced successful leadership.

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