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Making the Shift to Intelligence-Led Corrections

By Dr. Kelli Frakes, Program Director, Homeland Security at American Military University

Since September 11, 2001, there has been a need to utilize multiple means for gaining intelligence across the United States. Federal agencies that were once reluctant to share information are now working more closely together. State and local agencies are also taking on more responsibility for information gathering.

The Growth of Intelligence-Led Policing
One method that has been utilized by law enforcement agencies is intelligence-led policing (ILP), which includes gathering, analyzing, and disseminating information. ILP incorporates traditional police work by focusing on criminal intelligence in order to direct police activity and strategic operations. ILP has many applications, not only in the fight against terrorism, but also in overall crime prevention.

Focus on Intelligence-Based Practices in Corrections
The focus of ILP has been on local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies with little incorporation of correctional facilities’ knowledge and practices. There is a wealth of information within the correctional system—including probation and parole—yet intelligence-led practices remain limited in corrections and often overlooked by the law enforcement community.

[Related Article: Why Partnering with the Department of Corrections is Vital to Public Safety]

While research indicates that incarceration does not lead to radicalization, correctional facilities potentially have information that may assist law enforcement agenices in thwarting a potential attack or solving and preventing crime.

Prison GuardWhile some correctional officers have been contributing information to gang task forces for decades, others feel that information obtained inside a correctional facility should only be used within the institution. Often this attitude of not sharing information has been the result of correctional administrators not understanding the impact the information could have on an investigation or how assembling the information could fit into a larger puzzle.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies may not fully understand the wealth of information that corrections may possess. In addition to monitoring calls, mail, and email, correctional facilities also log visitors. Community corrections officers have access to employment records, residences, and friends and family that could prove very useful in an investigation. Much of this information cannot be obtained by law enforcement through other sources and it can be accessed without a warrant.

The Need for Enhanced Training
Within federal prisons and some state correctional facilities, full-time and part-time officers are being assigned to intelligence and investigative units. However, the majority of facilities do not train correctional officers how to collect information due to a lack of funding and resources. When information is collected, it is usually the result of an internal investigation into a prison incident such as a fight.

While many correctional facilities are not likely to hire a dedicated intelligence analyst, administrators can still develop methods to analyze information and share it with outside agencies. Success stories such as the participation of corrections in the Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) and Maryland’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program (MD HIDTA) can serve as models. Correctional facilities must work to leverage the ILP philosphy to collect, analyze, and share information within and outside the institution.

Keys to Success
Similar to ILP, success of intelligence-led corrections will depend on several factors. Correctional facilities must be willing to not only embrace the philosophy, but also establish processes and tools to properly implement the strategy as well as measure effectiveness. It is not enough for correctional officers to collect information; policies and procedures are needed to ensure such information is analyzed and then disseminated properly.

Formal processes should include the way information is collected and where and how it is stored. While small law enforcement agencies have been found to use informal dissemination processes as part of ILP, correctional administrators should consider a formal plan about how to share information with other agencies.

Research Opportunities
A further examination is needed regarding the application of intelligence-led corrections. Such research should focus on determining what factors contribute to differences in effectiveness of information-gathering strategies. Research should also focus on what methods, if any, correctional institutions use to analyze the information they obtain. Lastly, it is important to determine the best methods and processes for sharing information with outside law enforcement agencies since dissemination is critical to the success of this intelligence-based philosophy.

Kelli FrakesAbout the Author: Kelli Frakes, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor and the Program Director for Homeland Security at American Military University. Previously, Kelli managed several research projects focusing on issues pertaining to first responders funded by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Justice. Prior to academia, she worked in law enforcement and was the youngest person promoted to the rank of sergeant in her agency at the age of 24. You may contact her at

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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