Ayende @ Rahien

Hi!
My name is Ayende Rahien
Founder of Hibernating Rhinos LTD and RavenDB.
You can reach me by phone or email:

ayende@ayende.com

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MactoLooking at warrants


After spending so much time talking about how important Warrants are, it is actually surprising to see the UI for a warrant:

image

It is pretty simple, because from a data entry perspective, there isn’t really much to it. It is the effects of the Warrants that make it such an interesting concept. One thing to note here is that the date that we care about for the Warrant isn’t the date it was issued, but when the guy was actually arrested, that is where the clock starts ticking.

Adding a Warrant is also not that complex from a data entry perspective:

image

image

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As you can see, thus far, it is pretty simple. But when you click the Finish button the complexity starts.

We need to check that the Warrant is valid (issued by someone with the authority to do so), and then calculate the new duration for the Inmate.

And that is enough for today, I just wrote ~10 posts on Macto in the last 24 hours, it is time to do something else.

MactoTalking to nasty people


Well, so far we have looked at the main screen and the Counting screen, it is time we introduce ourselves to the Inmate screen as well:

image

As you can see, there isn’t a lot going on here. We have the Inmate’s Id, name and location (including noting where he is located, if he is known to be outside the prison). We don’t usually care for things like detailed information in the normal course of things (the Inamte’s national id, for example). That information is important, but usually not relevant, we relegate it to a separate screen.

The dates for incarceration and scheduled release are also important, but they aren’t available for editing, they are there only for information purposes.

The note is there to make sure that highly important information (such as whatever the Inmate is suicidal / flight risk) would be clearly available. The same is true for the Cliff Notes version of the Record.

It is there not for casual use, but to ensure that pertinent information is available. Most importantly, note the last line there. Which means that if this Inmate is about to be released, we have to notify someone and get their approval for that. Well, approval is a strong word, we notify them that they need to give us a new Warrant for the Inmate, but we can delay releasing him (say, until midnight the day he is to be released) waiting for that Warrant.

Warrants are important, and you can see the ones that this guy have listed here. The last Warrant is the important one, the others are shown for completion sake and to ensure that we have continuous Warrants.

There are also several actions that we can do to an Inmate. We can Transfer him to another prison, Release him or Add a Warrant. Each of those is a complex process of its own, and I’ll discuss them later on.

MactoCounting is The Holy Grail


I might have mentioned before that Counting is somewhat important in prison. That is about as accurate as saying that you would somewhat prefer it to keep breathing. Counting is the heartbeat of the prison, the thing that the entire operation revolves around.

Here we can see the counting screen:

image

You can see that we have an Open Count here, that is a count that is still in progress. Some cell blocks have reported their counts, and some are still in the process of making the count.

A Count is Closed when we know where are the Inmates are. (When the two numbers line up properly). You probably noticed that there are two ways to report a count, the first is for Inmates who are outside the prison (court, hospital, etc). Because they are outside the prison, we track them by name. For internal counts, we don’t really care about names, just the numbers.

There is another type of a Count, a Named Count, which is a process that happen very rarely, but is usually used to reconcile what is in the computer and what is actually in the cells.

It is important to understand the “Officer in charge” field, basically, it is the guy who has the legal responsibility and is signing off on those numbers. In other words, if there is something wrong, that guy is going to take a hard fall.

MactoGetting Started, you never forget your first Inmate


People always love to start with CRUD, but it is almost never that simple. In this post, we will review the process required to accept an Inmate into the prison.

That process is composed of the following parts:

  1. Identification
    • Who is the guy?
    • Id number
    • Names
    • Photo
    • If we can’t identify / refuse to identify, we still need to be able to accept him.
  2. Lawful chain of incarceration
    • Go over all the documents for his arrest
    • Ensure that they are all in order
    • Ensure that they are continuous and valid
    • Check if there are any urgent things to do with him. For example, he may need to be at court today or the next day.
  3. Medical exam
    • Is it okay to hold the guy in prison?
    • If he is not healthy, can we take care of him in prison?
    • Does he require hospitalization?
    • Does he require medicine / treatment?
    • Are there any medical consideration into where to put him?
  4. Intelligence
    • Interviewing the guy
    • Report interesting details that are known about him
  5. Acceptability
    • Does he fit the level of Inmates we can accept? We usually don’t put murderers in minimum security prisons, for example.
    • Does he have any medical reason to reject him?
    • Are there any problems with the incarceration documents?
    • Is there any intelligence warning about the guy?
  6. Placement
    • Decide where to put the Inmate
    • What type of an Inmate is he? (Just arrested, sentenced, sentenced for a long period, etc)
    • Why is he in prison for?
    • What kind is he? (You want to avoid Inmate infighting, it creates paperwork, so you avoid putting them in conflict if possible)
    • Where there is room available?

Another important aspect to remember is that while we are allowed to reject invalid input (for example, we are allowed to say that the id number has to consist of only numeric characters), we are not allowed to reject input that is wrong.

What do I mean by that. Let us say that we have an Inmate at the door, and he doesn’t have his incarceration paperwork in order (well, not he, whoever brought him in, but you get the point). That means that legally, we can’t hold him. But Macto isn’t where things are actually happening, it is merely a support system that tracks what is going on in the real world. And the prison commander can decide to accept that guy anyway (say, because the paperwork in en route), and we have to allow for that. If we try to stop people from doing this, it is going to be worked around, and we don’t want that. The system is allowed, even encouraged, to warn the users when they are doing something wrong, but it cannot block it.

The first part, Identification, is actually pretty easy, all told. This is fairly simple data entry process. We’ll want to do some checkups on the data, such as that the id number is valid or to check the id against the name, etc. But we basically have to have some level of trust in the documents that we have. You usually don’t have an arrest warrant for “tall guy in brown shirt”. If we find any problems there, we can Flag the Dossier as a potentially fraudulent name. This is also the stage where we want to check if the Inmate is a returned visit, and bring the life the old Dossier.

The second part is more complex, because there are many different types of Warrants, each with their own implications. Arrest Warrant is valid for 24 hours, Remand Warrant is good until sentencing, etc. We need to input all of those Warrants, ensure that they are consistent, valid and continuous. If there is a problem with that, we need to Flag the Dossier, but we can’t reject it. We will discuss this in more detail in the next post.

The third part is basically external to Macto, we may need to provide the Inmate ID, for correlation purposes, but nothing beyond that. We do need to get approval from the doctor that the Inmate is in an OK condition to be held in the prison. That does get recorded in Macto.

The forth part is again, external to us. Usually any information is classified and wouldn’t appear in Macto. We may get some intelligence brief about the guy, but usually we won’t.

The fifth part is important, this is where we actually take legal and physical ownership for the Inmate. Up until that point, we had him in our hands, but we weren’t responsible for him. Accepting the Inmate is a simple matter if everything is good, but if the Dossier was Flagged, we might need approval from the officer in charge. Accepting an Inmate means that he is added to the prison’s Roster.

The sixth part is pretty much “where do I have a spare bed”, after which he is added to the Roster of the cell block he is now in care of.

It is important to note that Placement always happens. Even if immediately after Accepting an Inmate you rushed him to the hospital, that Inmate still has to be assigned to a cell block, because that assignment means that the cell block commander is in charge of him. That way we avoid potential mishaps when an Inmate is assigned to no one, doesn’t get Counted.

Okay, I think that this is enough for now, in the next post, we will discuss what exactly goes on in the second part, it is a pretty complex piece, and it deserve its own post.

MactoThe Main Screen


I usually like to think about the responsibilities of the system by showing up the UI. It is a great way to communicate with both customers and developers.

Here is the main screen for the application:

image

This is actually a bad place to start with, in terms of coding start points, because it requires so many other things as well. This particular screen is likely to be viewed pretty much everywhere, this is what the prison commanders and the cell blocks commanders have at their desktop, what the officers are using to do their daily work (usually for Counting, admittedly).

Even before we can start , it reveals quite a lot about the actual way things work. In this screen, we can see that we have Flagged Dossiers, those are Inmates that have some problem with their Dossier. We can accept Inmates with problematic Dossiers, but we want to fix that as soon as possible, so we make this something that is very much front and center.

The “Action required” section detail Inmates that we have to take some action about. Whatever it is a court date that this inmate have to be at or his sentence is ending or a warrant that need extending.

Finally, and most importantly, we have the counts, which are the most important thing in the prison. You can see that the numbers at the bottom line up. If they don’t, we have A Problem.

MactoWarrants are for fools


Warrants are kinda important in a prison. They are the legal authority to limit someone’s freedom. In wouldn’t be overstating the fact in saying that Warrants are one of the major factors being managed in Macto.

There are all kind of Warrants in existence. To list just a few of them:

  • Arrest Warrant – Issued by an officer, generally hold for 24 hours only.
  • Detention Warrant – Issued by the court, generally for a short amount of time, up to a few weeks, in most cases.
  • Remand Warrant – Issued by the court, generally instructing the prison to hold the Inmate in custody until sentencing (not limited in time).
  • Sentencing Warrant – Issued by the court, specifying the total time that an Inmate is to be incarcerated.

There are other warrants, such as an Court Arrest Warrant, for example, but for the purpose of Macto, we won’t get into those. The type of activity currently required by the prison doesn’t really need them, but that might change in the future.

There is also another type of Warrant available, it is Whatever The Judge Said Warrant, or as the lawyers call is Mandamus Warrant. It is basically an instruction to do something, and it can be just about anything. From letting the Inmate to call his wife to putting him in a different cell or transferring him to a different prison to command special food / treatment to… Well, there is a reason I call it Whatever The Judge Said.

The rules for Warrants for incarceration are pretty simple. Each warrant type has an issuer (Arrest Warrants can only be given by Officers of rank Captain and above) for a certain duration (which in some cases, may be limited, such as the 24 hour limit for Arrest Warrants). Depending on the type of Warrant, it can be in Hours, Days, Months or Years. The units in which a warrant is specified are very important. In particular, there is a difference between 30 days incarceration and 1 month incarceration, for example. And hourly Warrants requires that by the time the Warrant expire, you are either got a new one at court or let the Inmate go.

The last issued Warrant is always the one that is valid, and all Warrants must be continuous. Gaps in the middle are considered to be a Very Bad thing.

MactoNon functional concerns, you are a legal system


Macto is a system that operates in a highly legislative environment. As such, we have to be prepared for the court to ask us to show our records about a particular Inmate. Part of that is ensuring that we preserve the history of the Inmate’s Dossier. An example where this would be relevant is when a lawyer contend the legality of incarcerating the Inmate. You have to show not only that you have legal authority to incarcerate the guy, you also have to show that you had that authority continuously throughout the incarceration period.

A typical case where there is a problem is shown below:

  1. 27 June 2011 20:52 – Arrest by Sargent Azulay for car vandalizing.
  2. 29 June 2011 09:15 – Detention, 8 days by Judge Judy
  3. 5   July 2011 – Remanded in Custody by Judge Thachil Oti
  4. 14 Aug 2011 – Sentenced, 3 months by Judge Koev Li
  5. 27 Sep 2011 – Released at end of sentence

Do you see the problem? You probably don’t, but for me, it shouts. The issue is that an Arrest is only valid for 24 hours. Because of the gap in the incarceration warrants, a lawyer can usually get an Inmate out.

That means that part of what the system has to do is to be able to say not only what the current state, but what was the state at any given point in time. Those are usually called Temporal Systems, or Append Only systems, since you are not allowed to make modifications existing data, only create new data.

They also tend to be quite hard to work with, but this is still isn’t a post about the technical stuff, so we will let it go until we get to the good parts.

MactoAnd it goes on your permanent record, too!


According to the way the blog posts are currently scheduled, I just spent about a month doing nothing but talking about stuff that has very little to do with the implementation, code or even just rough architecture. I bet you thought that you were going to see some code, diagrams and something real that you can sink your teeth into…

Well, not so fast, this is supposed to be a DDD sample, as such, the first and foremost topic that discuss is the actual domain. I think that this is likely to be the last of the pure domain posts, and I’ll get started with the actual design stuff shortly. But before we do that, we need to learn about one last aspect of the domain, the Inmate’s Record.

So far, we have dealt mostly with the Dossier, the legal stuff that means that we can keep an Inmate in lawful incarceration, but in addition to that, we also have the Inmate’s Record. The Record is basically all the interesting things that the prison stuff needs to know about the Inmate. Those things range from cliff notes version that you need to look at before you interact with an Inmate to a detailed record of his stay in prison.

The cliff note version is usually used in briefing about the guy, “Look, we have to take him to his court date, you need to remember, the guy is on suicide watch, so never leave him alone…”. In the cliff note version, we highly important aspects of the Record. Suicidal, Flighty (tried / planning to escape), Avoid Putting With Inmate X, etc.

The Full Record is used for things like intelligence reviews, interviews, parole hearings, and in any case where there is a need to learn a lot about the Inmate.

What goes into the Record?

  • Guards’ reports
  • Intelligence gathered
  • Disciplinary actions

And probably a whole lot more that I am forgetting. It is important to note the difference between the Dossier, which is usually handled by Legal and the Record, which is usually handled by Staff. They both refer to the same Inmate, but they are usually handled, maintained and used completely separately.

MactoOnce more from the top, I swear I had a few more over there


Counting is more than just a regular event in prison, it is more like the heart beat of the entire operation. Indeed, one of the more disruptive events in a prison is when Inmates refuse to be Counted. That is ranked up there will a full scale riot.

Macto is meant to be mostly about the legal aspects of an Inmate’s incarceration, but it can’t ignore the Counting. Indeed, we need to explicitly support those. Just to make our life complicated, when Inmates are Counted, they don’t actually have to be Counted (except at Opening Count and Closing Count, of course), they just have to be Accounted For.

For example, an Inmate may be at the Courthouse during Noon Counting, and that is just fine, as long as we know that he is there. Or there might be an Inmate that is present in another cell during the day, which is also pretty common.

Any changes for the counting for Closing Count are usually pretty extraordinary, something being hospitalized, just arriving from a very long day at Court, etc.

In Macto, we need to record not only that the counting has been made, but also:

  • How many Inmates where present?
  • How many Inmates where supposed to be there?
  • If there are any discrepancies, are they accounted for?

Oh, and you can’t just not accept invalid data, because if an Inmate has Escaped, you still need to be Count all of the rest (in fact, you want to be able to Count them very quickly, nothing make sure that you’ll Count as a suspected or real Escape attempt).

Speaking of which, there is another aspect of Inmate management that we haven’t spoken about yet, the actual tracking of the inmate, but I’ll discuss that in my next post.

MactoDay to day life


So the officer shows up in the morning, logs into Macto, and… what does he sees? What are the day to day operations that are required?

This is usually much harder to figure out, because there isn’t any particular action that initiate things, it is usually the routine stuff that trips you.

Since we are mostly interested in the Inmates legal statuses, every day, we need to start with an Action Plan:

  • Which Inmates go home today?
  • Which Inmates’ incarceration should be extended?
  • Which of the Inmates need to go to court?
  • Notify interested parties about Inmates who are scheduled to be released soon.
  • Are there any Inmates who should have been freed but are still hanging around?

Again, note how limited our scope is. We don’t deal with things like cell searches, scheduled drills, etc. Those are happening in any reasonable prison, and they probably need to be tracked, reported on, and scheduled. But those things are pretty much Routine Military Activity (same as the requirement that every soldier re-qualify on firearms once in some period), and there is probably software out there that already does it. We are focusing on the Dossiers, and that is a complex enough world on its own.

Did you notice the actual difference between the first two items of the action plan? What is the difference between them?

Inmates which gets to go home are usually those that were sentenced and served their time. Inmates whose incarceration should be extended are Inmates whose authority for incarceration is time limited, and would have to be released. However, there is usually a reason why they are incarcerated, and that usually means that instead of letting them go, we have to take them in front of a judge to extend the incarceration period until they are finally sentenced.

This part of the system is basically reports and alerts. It gives the user the information about what sort of actions should be taken to ensure that we don’t run into habeas the curpus scenarios without good answers.

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