North Carolina Department of Correction - Correction News - January 1999

Probation officers receive laptop computers

SMITHFIELD — North Carolina probation officers are being armed with laptop computers, a new tool that will become increasingly important as they continue to strengthen ties with law enforcement and treatment professionals, working as a team to supervise probationers.

"Our officers are excited about having the capability to quickly enter their reports into offender records and have instant access to important court forms," said Robert Shannon, probation manager in Judicial District 13. "The laptops will provide each officer with access to offender records instead of having to compete for time on a computer in the office."

Person county probation officers gingerly handled their new computers as they began a three-hour training session at the Second Division headquarters in Smithfield Dec. 7. Gently, they opened the machines, plugged in cables and brought the machines to life, as the information systems instructor described the machine's functions and the software that will help the officers with their work.

Connections to the Internet provide the officers with access to offender records, e-mail and the latest agency news. A software program provides all the forms that must be filed with the court or probation office. The program also allows the officers to download the latest versions of the forms from the Division of Community Corrections internal Web page to their computers. Instead of competing for access to a computer in the office, the officers now have battery-powered units and car adapters that let them take the computers everywhere they go.

"In the past, we may have had to go to the clerk of court's office to obtain the copy of a court form and then back to our office to type in information," said Intensive Probation Officer Robert Carver of Person County. "Now we have the forms and can type them up immediately. It will help us quickly act on offenders. In the nine years I've been here, we've been hearing about the day we'll have access to computers and this type of information. Now, it's here."

Probation managers who have been piloting a project in Henderson are finishing work on a new software program that will soon be added to the new computers. Instead of turning in handwritten reports to be filed, officers will be able to instantly type reports on their meetings with offenders making them quickly available to probation managers and easily retrievable in reviewing supervision of an offender.

Once they complete training, the officers are issued a NEC Versa LX computer. The machines are packed with 3.1 gigabytes of memory and 233 megahertz speed and operate with Windows 95.

In three days in Smithfield, 66 officers were trained and equipped with their computers. Eventually, more than 250 probation officers will be equipped with the computers.

Marie Bodie of DOC's Information Systems loaded software and set up all 266 laptops. Bodie developed a three-hour training session and then traveled the state presenting it to officers at probation's division offices. u

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