Having an incarcerated loved one is difficult...

...let's make visiting them a little easier.

Our vision for Kipa began Denise Johnston's call for assistance at the HACC opening event. The Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) houses inmates that are either awaiting trial or serving sentences of less than a year.

Visitation is a key part of the rehabilitation process, but OCCC faces substantial challenges in making visitation a smooth, stress-free process:

  • OCCC detainees are allowed up to 12 visitors, and must provide staff with those names.
  • Visitors must submit documentation to OCCC in order to be authorized to request visits.
  • Once authorized, visitors and OCCC staff must agree upon a 30 minute time slot during the next seven days.
  • Visitors must dress appropriately and bring additional documentation at the time of the visit.
  • Unpredictable changes in staffing resources means that visits might be cancelled at the last minute.
  • The current "technology" for visitation consists of a spreadsheet and single phone line. This technology is clearly inadequate to serve a constantly changing population of over 6,000 potential visitors. For example, visitors cannot make an appointment because they cannot get through on the phone line.

What it does

Our vision for Kipa is to create a highly automated workflow that provides significant benefits to both visitors and OCCC staff.

Benefits to visitors

While the phone line will still be available, most visitors will not need to use it. Instead, they can use a simple web or mobile-friendly interface to guide them through the authorization process.

Once authorized, visitors can request visits through the web interface.

Recognizing that the OCCC visitor population varies broadly in technological sophistication, the Kipa system will use text messaging whenever possible for communication with visitors. For example, Kipa will automatically generate a text message to visitors when:

  • A visitor has become authorized to request visits. The text message will provide instructions on how to start requesting visits.
  • A visitor's request for a visit has been approved. The text message will indicate the time and date of the approved visit.
  • The day of a visit has arrived. The text message will remind them of the time, the required dress code, and required documentation.
  • A scheduled visit must be cancelled due to OCCC staffing issues or other problems. The text message will tell the visitor that the visit has been cancelled and provide instructions on how to reschedule.

Benefits to OCCC staff

One goal is a dramatic reduction in the need to schedule visits via the phone. Although this option will still be available, we believe that text message-enabled phones are available to almost all of the visitor population, and that they will find this a faster, more effective, less error prone, and less stressful way to obtain visits with their loved ones.

A second goal is to reduce non-compliance with OCCC policies regarding visitation. Visitors will have easier access to rules regarding documentation and dress code, and the system will automatically generate reminders on the day of the visit.

A third goal is to simplify visit cancellation procedures. If an unforeseen event results in cancellation of one or more visitation sessions, OCCC staff can use Kipa to generate text messages to visitors informing them of the cancellation and providing instructions on how to reschedule.

How we built it

The Kipa system is the result of extensive consultation with OCCC staff over the course of the 2016 HACC. After the presentation on the opening day, we again met with OCCC staff at the first checkin at the end of week 1. We followed this up by a site visit during week 2, as well as a phone call with Denise to clarify details of the scheduling process.

The Kipa system is built using Meteor.

The latest version of the prototype implementation is available at http://kipa.meteorapp.com.

All source code is available at https://github.com/HACC2016/teamkipa.

The future of Kipa

Our prototype is just the start of our vision for a truly streamlined OCCC visitation process for both visitors and OCCC staff. While the system still requires some web or mobile interaction with visitors to set up the visitation process, we believe we can continue to expand the text messaging interface so that most visitors can use it exclusively for visitation scheduling.

For OCCC staff, we will expand the prototype interface into a dynamic, real-time dashboard that provides at-a-glance understanding of the state of visitation, and automated support for enforcing visitation constraints and optimizing access to detainees.

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