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Exploring Blended Touch-Screen and Graphic Panel Control Systems

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Magazine Volume: 66 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2004 Pages: 56-58
Richard Ross; William Buursma
Date Published
July 2004
3 pages
The Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) implemented the blended system approach of using touch-screen and graphic panel control systems in its correctional facilities and found it to be effective and efficient in providing security while freeing staff to interact directly with inmates.
The touch-screen technology requires that an operator touch an electronic screen image to effect a command. The graphic panel technology requires that the operator touch an image printed on the face of the control console to depress a microswitch and effect a command. Both of these electronic systems are driven by remote processors and both call up video and voice communications to facilitate the command. These different control devices are electronically networked into one combined system. ODOC has developed a security management hierarchy that differentiates three types of control points: central control, housing control points, and high-security housing control points. The intention of the hierarchy is to minimize the number of staff committed to fixed control stations. Central control is all touch-screen based due to the wide range of macrofunctions and microfunctions that will be commanded there. All commands are given to invisible remote locations. Macro functions include perimeter security, fire and life safety, disturbance command, and facility-wide communications. The four housing control points oversee eight housing pods; they use graphic panel controls and allow multiple commands in various locations to be executed in split-second "keying" of the precoded functions. Voice communications can overlay a succession of unrelated commands being concurrently made to open doors or respond to inmate or staff queries. While performing these functions, the control point operator is maintaining direct visual contact with unit entries and offender movement, because the graphic-inclined desk panel and multiple monitors are placed so as not to obstruct an officer's direct line of vision. The high-security housing control point, which oversees two single-celled housing pods, is graphic-panel based; this enables the controls operator to be in direct visual contact with the custody staff handling difficult inmates. The blended system provides a balance between equipment costs and staffing issues, such as minimizing staff for remote security control functions, training ease, ergonomics, and line-of-sight efficiencies. The facility that uses this blended system is achieving efficiencies in staffing of up to 10 percent more than previous Oregon prisons, while freeing staff to interact with inmates.