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Students optimize PADOC assignment model

Faculty and students in the department of industrial and systems engineering have created a “first-of-its-kind” optimization model to help Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections (PADOC) streamline the assignment of inmates to the state’s 25 correctional institutions.

PADOC officials say the Inmate Assignment Decision Support System (IADSS) has “transformed” the inmate assignment process in Pennsylvania and can do the same for state correctional agencies across the United States. In the long run, they say, the system could shorten prison stays and reduce recidivism—the rate at which released prisoners commit new crimes—by giving inmates more timely access to the treatment programs they need to earn parole.

There are currently 46,800 inmates in the state’s correctional institutions. PADOC’s annual expenditures total approximately $2.5 billion, or about 8 percent of the state’s total budget.

IADSS can make hundreds of inmate assignments in a few minutes, a task that requires hours when performed manually by humans. The system is the product of five years of work by graduate students and faculty members, who say IADSS represents the first application of operations research to the assignment of prison inmates.

PADOC officials have been using IADSS for 10 months to help assign inmates and they plan to switch over to it completely early next year. IADSS was also used to help reassign 2,000 inmates from the State Correctional Institute in Pittsburgh, which was recently closed, to other state prisons.

The group includes Mohammad Shahabsafa, a Ph.D. candidate; Anshul Sharma, a graduate student; Dan Li ’13 Ph.D. and Chatainya Gudapati ’17 M.S. The development team is led by Tamas Terlaky, the George N. and Soteria Kledaras ’87 Endowed Chair Professor in the department of industrial and systems engineering, along with Louis J. Plebani and George R. Wilson, professors in the department.

Read the full story at the Lehigh University News Center.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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