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When it comes to rates of incarceration in the United States, the statistics are grim. According to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), every year $81 billion is spent on keeping people in correctional facilities across the country. Out of the staggering number of people behind bars, almost 80 percent will return to a correctional institution within three years of being released. This is not just an isolated problem: according to the UK House of Commons Library, in 2017 and 2018 in England and Wales, it costs on average £37,543 ($45,986 USD) a year to keep just one person in a correctional facility, and the situation is alarming and costly. But what if cloud-connected systems and artificial intelligence (AI) could offer solutions, finding ways to harness the wealth of data inherent in public safety institutions, and use it to the advantage of administrators and inmates alike?

AI is at the forefront of an effort to increase institutional safety at correctional institutions and help reduce re-entry. While allocating housing to inmates may be mundane, it can have huge implications for inmate and staff safety. Having the ability to leverage data to understand risk during intake, and ultimately to inform housing decisions, can ensure safety and successful re-entry. Considering all of the available information about a new or returning inmate, a slew of data points could be used to look for insights and patterns of success. This data could alert staff to potentially volatile housing matches or even recommend matches that are likely to be successful. In the vast majority of correctional facilities, housing decisions are made on the fly, based on just a few data points. Using AI to create a more holistic view of inmates can go a long way to increasing their safety and lessening the likelihood of recidivism.

In addition, intelligent solutions could help make sure staff are forewarned about the number of people arriving on any given day so that more appropriate staffing choices can be made. Knowing exactly how many staff members to have on duty, and when, has the potential to save correctional institutions a great deal of resources. When it comes to making decisions about where to house inmates or how many staff to schedule, more information can lead to more successful decision making. It’s a simple equation that has AI and intelligent cloud technology at its heart.

Replacing the on-premises, paper-laden processes with cloud computing can truly transform correctional facilities. Traditional corrections management handles a huge amount of data that is too often siloed. Storing and surfacing data in the cloud makes the difficult task of turning paper-based data into valuable insights easier. It’s not just about institutions streamlining inmate names and arrivals; data-driven insights can ultimately save money, keep inmates safer, and foster better outcomes for correctional facilities.

Technology can also make life better for inmates during and after their time behind bars. When it comes to education and skill-building for inmates, cloud-computing can have a positive impact on what is, for most, a difficult experience. The Microsoft cloud platform is already being put to innovative use by correctional institutions to make inmate education more effective and modern. For example, in South Australia, the Department for Correctional Services uses Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 to help inmates gain relevant skills and education to better prepare them for life after release. In this case, transforming inmate education required stringent security controls and an evergreen platform that would reflect the technology standard in today’s job market. It’s an inspiring example of how using technology creates a more effective and positive experience for inmates.

Correctional organizations carry with them a vast amount of institutional knowledge. When combined with highly secure, data-driven insights gained through intelligent solutions, it can help these institutions harness deeper insights and ultimately improve public safety. Plus, all the potential efficiencies and cost-savings are rooted in Microsoft security features. With an evergreen platform and the backing of billions of dollars of security investment, Microsoft cloud-based solutions are some of the most trusted out there.

The future of public safety institutions is optimistic, thanks to highly efficient and people-focused technology. Combining data-driven insights with a human-centric approach, Microsoft technology can help corrections facilities bring a new perspective to what they do, all in an effort to deliver better outcomes. When AI and cloud-friendly transformation enters the public safety and justice space, it’s not just the business side that benefits—people and lives could be changed for the better.

To learn more about intelligent solutions designed with public safety in mind, listen to the GovPod podcast online, or via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify.