The Queensland Department of Corrective Services has partnered with Microsoft to create a .NET based offender management system, in the hopes it will allow easier integration with other law enforcement agencies.

The new system, dubbed the Integrated Offender Management System (IOMS) will replace the Queensland Department of Corrective Services’ (QDCS) existing legacy system. IOMS will be designed to allow the department to exchange offender information with other criminal justice agencies, including the police and court system. The multi-million dollar project will span the entire department, which includes 13 prisons and 34 community corrections staff.

Frank Arrigo, group manager for the .NET “ecosystem”, told ZDNet Australia   that from what he’d seen during the implementation of IOMS other agencies didn’t have Web services implemented. “This [program] will become the base, and other agencies can look forward as it goes ahead,” he said.

“A lot of the other departments are going to be looking to this as a project that shows how you can interconnect services, and I’m feeling comfortable it will show the benefits of Web services,” said Arrigo.

Michael Airton, general manager of Numinbah Correctional Centre, who heads the team implementing the new system, told ZDNet Australia   the project would integrate the custodial and community corrective services within the department, so a significant benefit would be seen outside of the benefits of integrating with other agencies.

“The information is not [currently] available to be shared by staff across those two areas,” said Airton, adding that under the new system staff would be able to make decisions with all the information available, regardless of where it came from.

The decision to implement a system based on Microsoft’s .NET rather than a competing platform was decided mid-2002, and was based on the systems and architecture which was already in place across the department, according to Airton.

Several months later Microsoft became involved, and the IOMS project became the first in the Asia Pacific region to be accorded funding from .NET Effects, a global Microsoft program aimed at assisting in the creation of large .NET developments, and mitigate the risks involved with the implementation of a large project. It provides architecture resources and expertise in the .NET platform.

One risk in the IOMS project is that it will have to fit in with the Queensland Government’s Integrated Justice Information Strategy (IJIS), which aims to exchange data and information across different agencies. According to Murali Varatharajan, assistant development manager at QDCS, the architecture for IJIS hasn’t been decided yet, but the department’s system will have to integrate with it. He said the Web services nature of the project will allow it to be integrated with almost anything, and he expected Microsoft would help with that process.

“Microsoft are pretty keen to see an enterprise .NET project using a number of different products, it’s a show case for them,” said Varatharajan. IOMS will use Microsoft’s Visual Studio.NET 2003, SQL Server and Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server, Sharepoint Portal Server, Biztalk Server, Active Directory and Office XP.

According to Airton the QDCS didn’t have sufficient internal developers to build the system, so it is building the infrastructure and maintaining control of the overall design, but outsourcing a number of functional components to a “panel of preferred vendors”.

“We’re currently in contract negotiations with a group of preferred suppliers and we’re hoping to announce the panel next week,” said Airton.