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Inmates Program Logistics App For Prison 98

Posted by Soulskill
from the there's-an-app-for-that dept.
schweini writes "Inmates in an Oklahoma prison developed software that attempts to streamline the prison's food logistics. A state representative found out, and he's trying to get every other prison in Oklahoma to use it, too. According to the Washington Post, 'The program tracks inmates as they proceed through food lines, to make sure they don’t go through the lines twice... It can help the prison track how popular a particular meal is, so purchasers know how much food to buy in the future. And it can track tools an inmate checks out to perform their jobs.' The program also tracks supply shipments into the system, and it showed that food supplier Sysco had been charging different prices for the same food depending on which facility it was going to. Another state representative was impressed, but realized the need for oversight: 'If they build on what they’ve done here, they actually have to script it out. If you have inmates writing code, there has to be a continual auditing process. Food in prison is a commodity. It’s currency.'"
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Inmates Program Logistics App For Prison

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  • by RunFatBoy.net (960072) * on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:22PM (#45305295)

    Since the code needs to be audited anyways, it'd be a great chance for an instructor to introduce code reviews and/or pull requests. And maybe during that process, help enlighten other curious inmates as to how the system and programming works.

    -- Jim
    Your website could be better. Getting weekly feedback [weeklyfeedback.com] is a good starting point.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And maybe during that process, help enlighten other curious inmates as to how the system and programming works.

      And five years from now, Google and Microsoft and Facebook will be whining how there simply aren't enough prisoners to meet IT demands.

      Sorry, but I'll stick with the H1Bs.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        I'm not sure whether to laugh of to start arranging alibis.

        • I'm not sure whether to laugh of to start arranging alibis.

          What good will your alibi do you when your job is replaced by a $2.30/hour 'work experience' inmate and you are arrested for "vagrancy"?

          The postbellum confederacy had this system down to a science; but there is no reason that it wouldn't work elsewhere...

          • Odd you should mention that, but that is what I really think the cuts to welfare are intended to do. More reasons to place more people in prison.

          • What good will your alibi do you when your job is replaced by a $2.30/hour 'work experience' inmate and you are arrested for "vagrancy"?

            It will get you a job for $2.30 an hour apparently, which is fine since housing and food costs are free.

    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:50PM (#45305693) Journal

      Awesome idea, with but one flaw... ...who is going to hire a ex-convict, especially in a role that most corporations consider to be sensitive? It could certainly spur entrepreneurial ideas, yes, but the vast majority likely won't be able to use the skills.

      Kinda sucks IMHO, because many prisoners are in there because they had no real opportunity before they got arrested... but it is what it is, and no one is going to hire an ex-con to write code. Hell, they rarely get hired to do skilled blue-collar labor as it is.

      • by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday November 01, 2013 @05:28PM (#45306107)

        There's approximately ten billion* startups being launched every day, and each startup benefits from a couple decent coders. The individual startups might not all be viable in the long term, but if anyone is going to be willing to jump from opportunity to opportunity, I'd think it would be an ex-con.

        *May include other galactic civilizations

      • who is going to hire a ex-convict?

        How would they know if the applicant was an ex-convict? Some employers do background checks, but most do not. Few even bother to cross check information on the resume. If someone is willing to rob a bank, they probably would have few compunctions about lying on a resume.

        There was an article [economist.com] in the Economist Magazine a few months ago, that said people with criminal records performed better in some jobs: firms routinely cull job candidates with a criminal record. Yet the data suggest that for certain jobs

        • by belmolis (702863)
          Spending a few years in prison tends to leave an awkward gap in your employment history.
          • Spending a few years in prison tends to leave an awkward gap in your employment history.

            Which is easily fixed using a sophisticated technique called "making stuff up".

        • by kermidge (2221646)

          In my state it's illegal to ask if one is a felon on a job application.* Further, if the company later finds out and fires you, that's illegal as well. Guess how many companies have been prosecuted, let alone indicted. Zero.

          *I don't remember how it's phrased or dealt with, but there is a requirement for disclosure if your felony is directly related to the position being applied for, i.e., one convicted of fraud or embezzlement applying to be a bank teller. (My approach was for some place that had an HR

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Bingo. In the IT field, companies I've found don't give a flying fuck about your -conviction- record. They check your NCIC -arrest- record. I asked a HR droid about this, and their answer was:

        "You can buy off a conviction, but if you ever had handcuffs put on, put in a patrol car, and was booked, you are guilty of -something-, thus a criminal. No cop wants to bother with arrest paperwork unless they have a real reason."

        I have worked at places where a perfectly good candidates, even ones far better than

    • Since the code needs to be audited anyways, it'd be a great chance for an instructor to introduce code reviews and/or pull requests. And maybe during that process, help enlighten other curious inmates as to how the system and programming works.

      -- Jim Your website could be better. Getting weekly feedback [weeklyfeedback.com] is a good starting point.

      Plus, when compared to SAIC or other obligate parasites of the state, a few rapists and murders are probably refreshingly honest and easy to deal with.

    • so now codeing will pay $0.13 HR + lockup costs.

      But may be better then HB1

  • How can food in prison be a commodity? Are the prisoners not fed enough?

    • It's not supposed to be a currency: prisoners are all supposed to be fed the same thing and are not allowed to swap or trade items.

      I don't know where this choice of "popular" comes from: if you don't want to eat something, it gets discarded after being served to you.

    • by Shoten (260439) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:35PM (#45305483)

      How can food in prison be a commodity? Are the prisoners not fed enough?

      Is this a real question?

      In prison, real currency is not allowed. However, humans are inherently commercial creatures, and consequently a system of barter results in the absence of any kind of hard currency upon which to base trade. What is needed is something with intrinsic value but which is also universally valued by most (if not all) of a population. Food is perfect for this: let's say you want something from another inmate. You may pass on eating a meal, instead giving it to the other guy in exchange for the thing you want. But, if you can go through the line twice, you can have your cake and eat it too.

      • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:53PM (#45305747) Journal

        What is needed is something with intrinsic value but which is also universally valued by most (if not all) of a population. Food is perfect for this: let's say you want something from another inmate.

        Nota Bene: Food in prison can also be considered a raw material - bread for instance can be turned into alcohol with the right know-how, or fruits fermented for the same purpose.

      • by amorsen (7485)

        Yes it is a real question.

        You may pass on eating a meal, instead giving it to the other guy in exchange for the thing you want.

        If the other guy has sufficient food available, he will not want your meal. Prisoners going hungry seems cruel to me.

        • by Shoten (260439)

          Yes it is a real question.

          Okay, then...let's break this down...

          You may pass on eating a meal, instead giving it to the other guy in exchange for the thing you want.

          If the other guy has sufficient food available, he will not want your meal.

          Exhibit A: epidemic obesity. All kinds of people obviously want more food than they need.

          Exhibit B: how many people eat to deal with depression and stress...and while I've never been to prison, I don't think it's a very happy place with lots of things you can indulge in.

          Exhibit C: as stated above, many components of a meal can be used to make things like fermented alcoholic beverages. So it's not always food, per se, that is being traded but rather the precursors of ot

          • by amorsen (7485)

            And you assume that every single prisoner has the exact same caloric needs...whether they're a skinny old guy or an 18-year-old who is hitting the weights every chance they get. I find it profoundly impossible for that to be true.

            No, I assume the prisoners get to choose the amount, or get sufficient that it is enough for everyone. The latter will obviously mean a lot is wasted.

            You do know what a prison IS, don't you? Seriously?

            It is a place where people lose their freedom in order to punish and rehabilitate them.

    • How can food in prison be a commodity? Are the prisoners not fed enough?

      Didn't you see that Clint Eastwood Alcatraz movie? How did Al Capone get paid off for a case dime? Dessert, every day for a couple of weeks IIRC.

    • by sjames (1099) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:50PM (#45305699) Homepage

      Got it in one.

      The prison system hopes to convince inmates to integrate harmoniously with society once they are let out by teaching them that society is a heartless bastard and their sworn enemy. Then it creates the necessary conditions for a thriving black market so they won't go into the drug trade.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      Apparently not. If everyone can have as much food as they like, the demand does not exceed the supply, and food would be valueless as a currency.
      With prisons being run by private companies, I can see an incentive to give the prisoners less to increase the profits.
      Or to use it as an (illegal) carrot/stick to get prisoners to behave.

      But there is a real problem lurking in having prisoners write logistics software - if prisoners or their capos control the food supply, they can create a shortage, which would bo

      • If everyone can have as much food as they like, the demand does not exceed the supply, and food would be valueless as a currency.

        Not true. Last time I was in jail (Santa Clara County Jail), we could have as much bread and peanut butter as we wanted. Everything else was limited. So nobody went hungry, but the good stuff (meat/desserts) was still used as currency.

        • by arth1 (260657)

          Not true. Last time I was in jail (Santa Clara County Jail), we could have as much bread and peanut butter as we wanted. Everything else was limited. So nobody went hungry, but the good stuff (meat/desserts) was still used as currency.

          In other words, they couldn't have as much as they wanted of meat and desserts - there was an artificial scarcity with the demand higher than the supply. I.e. just what I said earlier.

          If prisoners never get served anything that there isn't enough of, food is useless as a currency. If you cannot serve enough [insert item] to satisfy everyone, then serve something else which you can provide enough of. If you do, there will be no food bartering. If you don't, you're introducing an artificial scarcity and e

          • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @12:09AM (#45309101)

            trading and exploitation, where the strong exploit the weak.

            Trading does not imply exploitation. In fact, it implies the opposite: two willing traders. I am a vegetarian, so I when I was in jail, I was happy to trade away the meat, but not the dessert (I love sweet stuff). Several other inmates offered to do my toilet cleaning duty in exchange for the meat. I declined, because I don't actually mind cleaning toilets (as long as I can take a shower when I am done). So I mostly exchanged food for votes on the TV channel. I built up enough votes to watch the PBS Newshour every Friday (when Brooks and Shields do the analysis of the week's news). Sometimes I even had enough votes to watch Gwen Ifill on Washington Week. It was in a county jail, not a "real" prison, and Santa Clara is not a typical county, but I never saw "the strong exploit the weak". Mostly they were a great bunch of guys, and we all cooperated to keep the area clean and running smooth. It was also a great way to improve my conversational Spanish. The food trading was an open and fair process. Nobody was coerced, and nobody ever went hungry.

      • by osu-neko (2604)

        With prisons being run by private companies, I can see an incentive to give the prisoners less to increase the profits.

        That's a valid concern, although it should be noted in this case that the prison in the story is one of the public ones. (Oklahoma does have some privately-run prisons, but this isn't one of them.)

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      How can food in prison be a commodity? Are the prisoners not fed enough?

      Of course they are. It's easy to make sure they're fed enough since we know all humans require the exact same number of calories a day.

      Just like how prisoners are able to safely serve out their sentence (to be separated from society and freedom for a specified amount of time) and aren't subjected to things that aren't part of their punishment (like physical violence and sexual assault by other inmates).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They should already know all of these things through the most basic operations procedures. Oh, but why am I not surprised? Obviously you dont dare hire someone with an MBA to be the COO on a public project because they cant possibly be worth their salary. "Government should be run like a business" except when it comes to actually running it like a business with professional managers.

    K. I'll take my down-mods now for suggesting that professionals be involved in management.

  • If you have inmates writing code, there has to be a continual auditing process. Food in prison is a commodity. It’s currency.

    I see a new idea for the Underhanded C Contest.

    (Also, you just know those prisons won't have proper physical separation between security infrastructure and logistics.)

  • Rehab (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:42PM (#45305577)

    At least they're learning a skill that will be useful after they get out of prison. No wait ... that was before they shipped all the jobs offshore. I'll bet being a car thief pays better than flipping burgers, so maybe these guys ought to teach economics.

    • At least they're learning a skill that will be useful after they get out of prison.

      It's only a matter of time before some prison starts running its own MBA program.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ReiserFS would be perfect for this!

  • Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "back door"!!!
  • Can I stop barfing, yet? It's starting to burn my nose.

  • If you have inmates writing code, there has to be a continual auditing process. Food in prison is a commodity. It’s currency.

    Dear Warden:

    These inmates have done your job better than you have. They have saved me, the taxpayer, your boss, money.

    If these guys can streamline your own systems, I really don't give the least damn if they can live like kings (to the greatest extent possible while locked in a government cage). Fucking let them!.
    • If you have inmates writing code, there has to be a continual auditing process. Food in prison is a commodity. It’s currency. Dear Warden: These inmates have done your job better than you have. They have saved me, the taxpayer, your boss, money. If these guys can streamline your own systems, I really don't give the least damn if they can live like kings (to the greatest extent possible while locked in a government cage). Fucking let them!.

      Much as it might irritate you, you are no more the Warden's boss than you are the boss of the McDonald's employee who only gave you 1 sauce packet with your 20 piece "chicken" nuggets. You are a consumer, you are the indirect source of their income, and you are ultimately supposed to be served by both these things, but you are not the boss.

  • Perhaps they could outsource fixing Healthcare.gov to the prisons?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I hear the software runs on an iPhone - but only if Jail Broken...

  • Why didn't they get contracted out to work on Healthcare.gov?
  • While code audits are necessary, code audits by OK bureaucrats is clearly a violation of the 8th amendment.
  • Personally I'd have no trouble with hiring someone who'd been incarcerated for something I don't think should be a crime, like possession or growing of cannabis.

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:15PM (#45308847)
    Thank god this state is like this. I am in VA. Let us just say that I -was- in prison for a 'short' while. I am not a good coder. I am a hardware and network geek. I had a friend inside who wrote an application to track offender good time, housing, release dates etc. It spread from that prison to others (he worked in a computer class, and it was passed off as being written by the instructor). Later, someone found out it was inmate written, they gave him 'institutional' charges related to computer fraud - no real legal system charges -, transferred him to another prison and revoked -any- use of a computer for a job.

    The system continued to be used by various prisons in the state (not all but most of them). Then the decree came on high that the state IT management corp (headed by northropp grumman) would write a new system. Guess what? It still contains code written by him.

    We have both since been released, and guess what. It is hard to get a job. So I started my own web design (mostly template wordpress and drupal), and pc repair/consulting business. It has been slowly and hard, but now I am contracting to one of the bigger (but still small) repair firms in town and I am doing okay.

    My friend is in a different part of the state and doing pretty well too. We are both lucky that even without internet access, we had and for a while at least, maintained jobs as classroom aides or other computer related jobs and were able to keep our brains relatively up to date with that and trade magazines/books for the decade +/- we were incarcerated.

    As we become more and more connected, this becomes less possible. How can you teach an inmate office or photoshop when it requires a live internet connection? Or basic internet literacy for that matter? When an inmate has been inside for 10-25 years and has no clue how to even turn on a PC or tablet, much less send an email, how is he even supposed to apply for more than a day labor or dishwashing position upon his release?

    For many it is easier to mooch, steal, or deal than reintegrate, and the educational prospects inside prison are severely hobbled for many reasons. Sure, most of the people who are there did some bad things, some terrible. Some change, some do not. If a person has the true desire to better himself and does not have or is denied the resources, then it is not much better than modern day slavery, and when you look at 'prison industry' it pretty much is.

    Now the question is, who is surprised that there is an ex-con on /. ? I was here before too, but under a different name.

    • I am personally fine with inmates being "disconnected" from current technology. There will always be books and other media from which one can learn. You don't need to know about tablets and smart phones to get out and get a decent job, skills in IT/CS are inherently transferable and most of the bleeding edge stuff is vastly inferior to the stuff with a few generations (tech generations, not human) of maturity.

      Also, I frankly think there is nothing wrong with ex-cons having to work their way up from the bo
      • by wbr1 (2538558)
        I mentioned photoshop as it is quickly becoming cloud based and there are graphic design clases 'on the inside' that will be affected. If you think you can go to a company with only GIMP and Inkscape experience and get a job, even without a felony strike, you need to open your eyes.

        That aside, this should tell you a bit about 'education' in the correctional system.

        http://www.educationviews.org/the-virginia-department-of-juvenile-justice-division-of-education-where-crime-pays-and-integrity-is-a-crime/ [educationviews.org]

      • "Also, I frankly think there is nothing wrong with ex-cons having to work their way up from the bottom when they reintegrate into society."

        In theory that sounds fine, but in practice it is a problem because the less they earn from law-abiding jobs is the more they'll be inclined to return to crime. If they have the skills for a $30/hour job, the rest of us are better off if they can get that $30/job, as they'll be more likely to stay out of trouble than if they had a minimum wage job.

        " On the other hand, w

  • This sounds like an awesome way to give yourself a monopoly on illicit access to these items, imagine all the cheat codes you could plant in the software.

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