SACRAMENTO — Unable to fix program flaws, the state has sued TRW Inc. and canceled a $40.1-million contract with the computer company that would have allowed prison officials to electronically track the whereabouts of 250,000 inmates and parolees, officials said Friday.
Tipton C. Kindel, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said TRW failed to produce a fully functional system under terms of the contract for what was believed to be one of the biggest projects of its kind.
In addition to suing TRW on Thursday for breach of contract, state officials prohibited the company's employees from returning to the project work site Friday, Kindel said.
Officials estimated that the state spent $2 million on the contract before the cancellation.
Mike Jablonski, vice president of communications for TRW in Cleveland, said company executives were very disappointed and learned only Friday that the contract was terminated.
"We have not seen the complaint," he said. "It is hard to comment on something we have not seen."
Kindel described the project as a massive undertaking aimed at pushing the department's outdated record-keeping system into the Electronics Age.
Inmate records are now kept mostly on paper and travel with convicts from prison to prison, he said.
Kindel said the project was intended to fully automate the tracking of inmates between prisons, jails and courts as well as monitor where they were housed. It also was to have kept track of parole dates, inmate histories, medical and employment records and other information.
Kindel estimated that the records of 145,000 felons and 106,000 parolees would be affected.
Cancellation of the contract, Kindel said, is a substantial setback in the modernization program and would further delay automation of record-keeping by a couple of years.
"We were supposed to have it in operation by now," he said. Kindel said the project would be put out for new bids in four to six months.
But the cancellation appeared to save the Wilson administration the kind of black eye it suffered three years ago when the Department of Motor Vehicles had to abandon an unworkable computer modernization program. That project represented an investment of $51 million.
TRW, submitting the lowest of two bids, won the Department of Corrections contract in December 1994.
Kindel said $2 million had been spent on the contract before it was ended. He said an in-house, early intervention system stopped the project before it progressed further.
"We don't have a Correctional Management Information System, but at least we have not paid $40 million [for] something that does not work," he said.
Kendel said department officials first believed the project had fallen into "pretty serious trouble" in January 1996, when a critically important design element failed to satisfy the department.
He said state officials and TRW had tried since March to resolve their differences in negotiations but couldn't reach a settlement.