Phillip Winder – State of Delaware
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit Delaware’s prison system in 2020, prior work updating technology and electronic medical records at the Department of Correction—including a module that would aid in contact tracing—allowed for a swift response to quarantine-positive cases.
It was welcomed relief at a time of crisis, says Phillip Winder, chief of information technology at the DDOC headquarters in Dover. There, he oversees IT applications and infrastructure to keep 5,000 offenders across the state system safe at four maximum security prisons and seven level four facilities.
The recent creation of a COVID-19 IT dashboard gives DDOC management a clear snapshot of which offenders tested positive, how many are hospitalized and who’s recovering. It also provides notes on patient testing and medical treatment.
The software was integrated into other modules monitoring where inmates are housed, educated, or moved, allowing officials to drill down into each offender’s data. At a glance, officers can see where inmates have been and who they’ve contacted so they can be isolated.
“IT stepped up quickly to apply technology during the pandemic—whether it was helping people work from home, or isolating offenders to limit the spread,” says Winder. “Technology provided us with the greatest insights quickly when we needed it the most.”
Operating like a small city
According to Winder, the prison system is a microcosm of a city. Because Delaware has no county jails—only prison facilities and detention centers—offenders may be incarcerated from a few hours to many years. That requires housing, educating, feeding and providing medical care to a broad population.
Now in his eighth year at DDOC, Winder says technology is at the heart of its operations—touching everything from security and medical records to discharges, arrivals, visitation, educational classes (including college courses) and even a commissary and pharmacy. During his tenure, he’s worked to ensure the state’s operations are secure and seamless despite technology’s rapid rate of evolution.
“For the most part DDOC provides all medical care for an offender onsite, unless it’s a major medical need requiring a specialist, or an emergency,” Winder says. “Transporting offenders offsite poses a risk.”
Prior to Winder’s arrival in 2013, the DDOC established a six-phase approach for developing its electronic health record system.
One of Winder’s first projects was implementing that system. During the first phase, his team set up information-gathering sessions in a public-private partnership involving DDOC’s medical staff, medical providers and the department’s primary software vendor, CNT Infotech, a company specializing in IT solutions for health care, correctional facilities and government organizations.
Based on those meetings, Winder’s team and CNTi documented project requirements and began using the EHR system. Part of that process was making sure the system could be adjusted for future needs, including infectious disease intelligence gathering and creation of executive dashboards—a boon for DDOC during the pandemic.
“Implementation of an EHR system is vital to the well-being of offenders,” Winder says. “It’s also helped the organization stay in synch with each individual’s medical situation and behavioral health needs, such as substance abuse.”
Protection and prevention
When a hostage situation erupted four years ago, resulting in the death of a correctional officer, Winder headed up installation of a state-of-the-art security-camera system in each DDOC facility.
Working with Assurance Media—a communication infrastructure provider specializing in surveillance systems and access control—he and his team toured each location to identify the best areas to place cameras—typically in corridors between groups of cells and for exterior surveillance. To date, upgraded camera installations have been completed at two level five locations (the highest level of security), with two more to be completed in 2022.
The project not only involved installing cameras but upgrading hardware and software to establish a viewing station where officers could see all the camera shots in one place. In addition to cellblocks, areas were also broken down into zones to detect any anomalies, such as fence intrusions.
“The camera upgrades allow a correctional officer to track an inmate’s movement wherever they go,” he says. “With this level of surveillance, the team really has each officer’s back.”
Because the system has the capacity to tie in data, images and other information using analytics, Winder says it offers even greater protections. Future advancements—including facial recognition technology—will incorporate a greater degree of machine learning and artificial intelligence integration to help identify and mitigate potential problems.
“For the first time DDOC is gathering information to help predict a problem and possibly prevent it from happening,” he says. “My goal is to advance that process even further in the next four years.”
From private to public
Understanding technology came easily for Winder, a self-described “natural-born tinkerer,” who liked to experiment with computers and networks during his childhood.
That drive led him to Delaware Technical Community College, where he earned an associate degree in IT, microcomputers and networking in 2002. He then earned a degree in information resource management in 2004 from Wilmington University as well as two master’s degrees—in public administration and information systems—in 2006.
Winder augmented his experience working as MIS analyst II at M&T Bank starting in 1993 and ending in 2007. It was an interesting time in banking technology, he says, giving him an opportunity to learn about Intelligent Voice Response system technologies and the evolution of debit and credit cards.
In 2007, Winder learned of public sector opportunity at the Delaware Department of Transportation. It was a pivotal time for the state, which was shifting from legacy and paper-based systems to a modernized technology infrastructure, including implementation of Real ID technology for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Hired as a manager of enterprise resource systems, Winder was promoted to his current post in 2013. He also holds a seat as a technology director on the Correctional Technology Association, an organization committed to developing best practices for the industry.
During his tenure, he’s also helped implement technology to rehabilitate offenders in the DDOC’s education programs, even equipping inmates with tablets.
“These types of technologies help to reduce recidivism and prepare people for life after incarceration,” he says.
The most meaningful aspect of his job, however, is providing technology to keep people safe—whether in, or out of, the facility.
“Knowing that the technology DDOC provides helps staff come in to do their job and return home safely to their families is one of the most important aspect at the end of my day,” he says.
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