Prison Pete

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Let me give you a brief description of my latest acronym, I.I.S.S, It Is Software, Stupid.

We have three different amounts in our cash accounts: Account Balance, Available Balance, and Spending Limit.

Account balance is the total amount of money that the BOP is holding for our benefit.

Available balance is the cash we can spend. It can be less than account balance because some money might be considered unavailable funds.

There are two types of unavailable funds. Money we receive that is not a US Postal money order or cash is held for fifteen business days to clear, and is thus considered unavailable. The second type of unavailable funds is for Special Purchase Orders (SPO’s), which are used for the few things not sold in the commissary, for example, hobby craft supplies.

When they are ordered, a hold for the anticipated amount of the SPO is placed on the inmate’s account. Otherwise an inmate could order $50 of supplies, and then spend the money next week on candy and soda! Fortunately, the computers allow for the dollars to be put on hold.

I hope this is clear so far.

The third amount, the Spending Limit, is an amount of money we are allowed to spend each month, provided you have the available funds. Based on the last digit before the dash in your number, e.g. 12345-678, your spending limit is reset on the (n*3) + 1 day of the month. So in the example above, the limit resets on the sixteenth of each month.

Well, since there is someone new processing these SPO’s, she is now refusing to approve any SPO that exceeds the spending limit. Even if the inmate has $500 on account, if his spending limit is $96 and the SPO is for $130, the order is refused! The fallacy of this is that the order may not arrive for four to eight weeks, and during this time, the limit will reset one or two times! But when you actually pay for the SPO (when it is received) it will go against the spending limit at that time.

Is this clear?

So, obviously, the software for creating SPO’s has to only check that the order amount does not exceed the $290 spending limit, since if that was the case it could never be picked up, and that there is an available amount equal to the SPO.

When discussing this today with both the person that inputs the orders and her supervisor, they both said, yeah, that is the way it has to be, and so from now on instead of returning those orders, she will hold them till the individual’s spending limit is reset.

One guy had his spending limit reset, had an SPO for over $100, but went to the store the following week and spent the whole limit in the store, $290, regardless of the SPO.

So now I need to go over the supervisor’s head to get someone with 3/4 of a brain to figure out the false logic of the system.
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