Sex offenders left unmonitored as tagging system goes down

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Around 16,000 sex offenders and prisoners on parole were left unmonitored for 12 hours last week, as a crucial database hit its limits.

The electronic tagging system run by BI Incorporated shut down on Tuesday, meaning that while data on offenders' movements was collected, agencies were unable to access it. The data was only processed when the server came back up at 7:25pm MT.

"The BI TotalAccess Server is used for a variety of offender risk classifications, including low-, medium- and high-risk defendants and offenders," said BI spokesperson Monica Hook.

"Importantly, the monitoring system continued to operate and gather information, but transmissions were delayed until the system was restored."

The system is used to monitor the movements of offenders, as well as other activities such as alcohol consumption. The offenders themselves were'nt aware that the system had gone down.

The shut-down occurred when the database on the company's TotalAccess Server hit its threshold of 2.1 billion records. Hook said that the company's customers were all informed immediately and kept up to date as the system was restored.

"We believe the issue is resolved, as we have expanded the database threshold to more than one trillion records," said Hook. "In the meantime, we are working with Microsoft to develop a warning system on database thresholds so we can anticipate these issues in the future."

Len Silverston, a database expert called in by the company, said the issue that caused the server problem was very unusual and not a reflection of any memory storage problems.

"In my 28 years as a database management expert, running out of values in a column in a table is very rare and very difficult to reach,” he said. “To see this coming with what the designers had put in place would be very difficult."