An inspiring look at the projects and contributions of leaders in the Justice sector

Welcome to the JUSTICE TRENDS // Leader Profile – Interview series, where we bring you the stories and insights of distinguished leaders in Criminal Justice worldwide.

 

Guest

Silas Deane

Tyler Technologies, Inc.

Silas Deane has over 14 years of experience in correctional cloud-based technology solutions, and currently serves as the General Manager and Vice President of the Corrections Solutions team at Tyler Technologies.


Silas spent over a decade in Washington, DC in the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives as a Technology expert, and serving as the Executive Director of the International Microelectronics Society.


In 2011 he founded VendEngine, Inc., a cloud-based correctional software company, which was named one of the top 300 fastest growing companies in the U.S., prior to being acquired by Tyler in 2021.


During this time, he has worked with more than 350 county and state correctional facilities across 28 U.S. states, the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe assisting with a variety of technology, communications and infrastructure challenges.


In addition to his roles at Tyler, Silas currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Kentucky, and Executive Board Member of the Nashville Technology Council, and the Advisory Board of Project FinTech.

This is a multimedia interview

Watch / Read

Scroll down to watch the videos

Listen

Audio only full-interview

Also available on:

Also available on:

From 1999 to 2011 you launched 6 different companies, culminating with VendEngine, a software company focused on providing cloud-based technology solutions to the corrections industry, which led you to win several entrepreneurial and fastest-growing company awards.

Could you provide insights into what prompted you to focus on the correctional sector, and what new challenges you faced working in this industry?

Play Video
There's got to be a better way

Silas Deane: I came into this industry not knowing anything about corrections. Back in 2011, I was listening to a podcast about an inmate’s journey going through the correctional process. What struck me wasn’t just the inmate’s journey but also the family’s experience – those supporting the inmate, and who had now lost their breadwinner, facing a lot of hardships. It truly touched me in a lot of ways.

 

Being an entrepreneur, I thought “there’s got to be a better way.” Having worked for a long time in Washington DC, on Capitol Hill and on Technology, I knew what this “new thing” called cloud-based computing could do, and how it could help those people.

 

Not knowing anything about corrections, I reached out to my local sheriff here in Tennessee wanting to learn more. I had the sheriff book me into the jail where I could spend time with the inmates and talk about their journey and experience.

 

I came out of that experience, after about two years of learning, to create a cloud-based software system that allowed inmates to continue to communicate with their family members, facilitated money deposits into their commissary accounts or paying for their phone calls, alleviating the burdens faced by families. And that’s how this journey began.

You can only imagine the first time I went to a local sheriff or jail in a rural county in the United States saying I'm going to put all your inmates' data in the cloud.

How have your professional objectives evolved in response to the realities within the sector?

Bridging the connection gap
SD: We launched our first cloud-based computing system in rural Western Kentucky. You can only imagine the first time I went to a local sheriff or jail in a rural county in the United States saying “I’m going to put all your inmates’ data in the cloud”.
 
They looked at me as if I had horns on my head. “You can’t do that”, is basically what they said. They raised issues such as security problems, inmate behaviour, and so on. We were able to overcome that initial reaction and transform this technology integration into something that is now very common across the United States.

Play Video
The VendEngine team (2020)

 

SD: In corrections, we connect with people when they’re at their lowest points in life. In the case of inmates, because they have been put into a correctional facility, or for the family members, because they lost their breadwinner, their father, their mother, whatever it might be, to the system.

 

I believe that in our professional path, we can be a catalyst for change. A catalyst that can provide the continuity of their communication, support their rehabilitation journey, and help the families understand this process. So, using technology to bridge this gap and help individuals on their journey, is what we try to do here.

What other achievements would you highlight across these 14 years working in the correctional sector, and how is Tyler Technologies building upon them?

Play Video
Cloud-powered progress

SD: Bringing cloud-based technology to the jail and corrections market, back in 2012, and how crazy that was, is one of the highlights of my career.

 

But now, fast forward to the year 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Correctional facilities had to shut down access and visitations.

 

At that time, those who had adopted this cloud technology and our video and communication products prior to COVID saw seamless flow. So, they were able to continue visitations via video through our app. That was very important, because, in America at least, visitation is a right, not a privilege. Those who were non-believers before became believers during COVID-19, and we saw explosive growth. That attracted Tyler Technology’s attention.

 

At Tyler, we know that corrections, courts, supervision, and reentry are all connected. With technology platforms in every one of those areas, and being able to plug in each of those things, we see the symbiotic relationship going across all the technology platforms. At some point, we envision a future where everything is connected.

 

So, starting the second a person is picked up on the highway, as they’re going through the court system, being incarcerated, and then exiting, that journey would be on one singular platform.
That would allow for the use of predictive AI and other technologies to support people in the system and help us to reduce recidivism, for example, a terrible problem in America. That’s what we’re striving for.

What strategic initiatives is Tyler Technologies considering to further enhance its impact in the public and correctional sectors?

Play Video
Building a brighter future for corrections

SD: Obviously, AI is growing and changing every single day right in front of us. Tyler has recently made a couple of acquisitions in the AI space, and our teams are currently taking a look at those technologies to assess where they can be embedded.

 

Imagine, for instance, being able to predict outcomes for an inmate during the booking process. While it won’t be 100% correct, forecasting outcomes based on their profile, like someone with an anger management problem, could guide them to tailored programmes, hopefully, improving that outcome along their journey.

I believe that we can be a catalyst for change that can provide the continuity of communication [between families and incarcerated individuals], support their rehabilitation journey, and help the families understand this process.

 

SD: It’s going to be an iterative process that is not going to happen overnight. But I think the correctional facility of five years from now, is going to look very different, moving towards more effective programming for better inmate outcomes. That’s our goal at Tyler.

Tyler is also investing heavily in the hardware components to achieve this, like opening up a large manufacturing facility for industrial-grade hardened tablets and hardened kiosk machines, to improve inmate access to software. 

Silas Deane at the groundbreaking ceremony for Tylers' Kingston Springs manufacturing facility (November 2022).

Read more about Tyler Technologies’ Resident Resources in this article from JUSTICE TRENDS No. 9:

Cloud-based correctional technology drives Morgan County’s connected successes

Other trending profiles

Francis Toye

Founder & CEO, Unilink

Oliver Drews​

CEO of Telio Group

Deb Alderson

CEO, ViaPath Technologies

Like / Share:
More stories
Hazel Wheldon