Feeds

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

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

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft WINDOWS 10: Seven ATE Nine. Or Eight did really
Windows NEIN skipped, tech preview due out on Wednesday
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
'Google is NOT the gatekeeper to the web, as some claim'
Plus: 'Pretty sure iOS 8.0.2 will just turn the iPhone into a fax machine'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.