MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 29, 2013

Inmate-created computer program could save state money

Made to end food theft, it also found prices varied for same items


Associated Press

— LEXINGTON (AP) — Three computer-savvy inmates have created a data-collection program that may save Oklahoma millions of dollars, several state lawmakers say.

The program was developed to monitor inmates during chow time. By entering each inmate in a computer system as they receive food, corrections employees hoped to catch prisoners who were getting back in line for seconds.

The program, developed and maintained by inmates, has been in operation at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington for close to two years, The Oklahoman reported.

The inmates also gathered information on the quantity and price of food purchased from the state’s food vendor and noticed that the same items being delivered to two different facilities were being bought at different prices, which raised a red flag for the lawmakers.

Oklahoma Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said the program has the potential for use in other state-run correctional facilities.

Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, said that allowing prisoners to work on the program can save the state the money it would cost to hire a software developer.

“We utilize our prisoners for physical labor jobs, and it just so happens some of our prisoners have a skill set other than physical labor,” Martin said.