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Lehigh University Engineers Create Computer Program That Is Saving the State Prison System Millions of Dollars

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Inmates awaiting housing assignments.

An algorithm developed at Lehigh University is expected to save Pennsylvania's prison system $2.9 million a year, by accelerating the process of determining where inmates will be incarcerated.

Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Researchers at Lehigh University have developed the Inmate Assignment Decision Support System, an algorithm expected to save Pennsylvania's prison system $2.9 million annually by accelerating the process of determining where prisoners are incarcerated.

"The Lehigh model looks at everything simultaneously and holistically," says the State Correctional Institution's William Nicklow. "It makes the most appropriate recommendation for everybody based on the resources that are available at that time."

The researchers say the program began with the design of a decision tree identifying factors in inmate assigning, which was then combined with a graphical user interface and an optimization model used by airlines to assign staff and passengers to flights.

The algorithm was employed this summer to reassign 2,000 inmates when the State Correctional Institution was closed. Nicklow notes the algorithm boosted the efficiency of the reassignment process so that it took four and a half months instead of six as originally expected.

From The Morning Call
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