Feeds

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

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

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.