Feeds

Locked-up crims write prison software that puts squeeze on grub supplier

What language did they use ... Ruby behind bars?

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Prisoners serving time in an Oklahoma penitentiary have written software to monitor the institution's canteen that could save the state $20m a year – and which has raised some awkward questions for one of the prison's outside suppliers.

Two criminals in the Joseph Harp Correctional Center – one doing time for murder and another for sex offenses – wrote some code that monitors operations in the big house's kitchens. Each prisoner in the facility is issued a barcode and the software checks that no one takes extra meals or checks out kitchen equipment and doesn't return it.

"It's a pretty neat program. It's all done by the direction of the supervisor, one of these guys who's kind of, what do you call it, thinking outside the box," Bobby Cleveland, an Oklahoma state representative, told the Washington Post. Cleveland estimated the software was so good it could save the state millions if used in other jails.

The application not only saves money by making the kitchens run more smoothly, but also by avoiding legal bills. Prisoners who have the right to a diabetic, vegetarian, or religiously mandated meal (such as kosher or halal food) have successfully sued the state for non-compliance, but the new software ensures everyone gets fed the right thing.

But the code also monitors what food comes into the facility and the banged-up developers found that Sysco, the contractor that supplies the state's facilities, was charging different prisons different prices for the same products.

"It does kind of expose the waste at all the other facilities. It was just one of those genuine, lightning-strikes things," said Oklahoma state representative Jason Murphey. "You're always dependent upon those at the ground level to report what's going on. Here in this facility, you had those employees at the ground level taking their jobs very seriously."

Sysco denied any wrongdoing to reporters, adding that the price differential may be due to the differing times at which orders were placed. Prices for its products fluctuate weekly to reflect demand and the quality of grub, the company said.

Getting prisoners to write software for their own facility did raise eyebrows, however. The two inmates worked with a member at staff to knock out the code, and the software is independently audited to make sure that they haven't slipped in any backdoors or tried to game their own program. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Next Windows obsolescence panic is 450 days from … NOW!
The clock is ticking louder for Windows Server 2003 R2 users
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.