The previous computer system used by the Oklahoma County, Okla., Sheriff’s office has been in service since 1997 and is no longer being developed or sold by the vendor. The new system will be in place within a year.
(TNS) — In March, it was discovered that a man had been "lost" in the Oklahoma County jail for eight months.
Some county officials attributed the incident to the fault-prone process of transporting important paperwork between the jail and the courthouse by hand rather than having efficient computerized systems.
“I’ve been saying that the computer systems have to start talking to one another,” Court Clerk Rick Warren told The Oklahoman at the time. “Until the process is automated, we run the risk of repeating this problem again and again.”
Now, after gaining approval from the county commissioners at their Sept. 25 meeting, the sheriff’s office has accepted a bid to update its record and jail management systems to the latest available software in an effort to streamline data collection and sharing between the sheriff, public defenders and the district attorney’s office.
“This is going to make a world of difference,” said Danny Honeycutt, legal counsel to the sheriff’s office, which currently manages the county jail. “It should take care of a lot of our current problems.”
The previous computer system, E-Justice, has been used since 1997 and is “antiquated and no longer being developed or sold by its vendor,” according to a memo provided by the county clerk’s office. The public defenders and the district attorney's office recently upgraded their systems as well.
Caliber Public Safety, the company providing services now, won the bid and will upgrade the systems for roughly $686,000 for the first year, which includes installation and conversion costs. Annual payments going forward will total nearly $250,000, though the details are still being finalized, Honeycutt said.
“It is an increase of cost, but it will be effective,” he said.
Honeycutt said the jail management system will be able to do things like track inmates as they move through the courts and monitor their bank accounts and property. The records management system pertains to law enforcement and will track reports, traffic tickets and more.
A primary focus is ending the paper trail, said Caliber spokesperson Deidre Chaney. It will likely be a year before the systems are up and running fully.
The need for data upgrades has been widely discussed by criminal justice reform advocates for years.
The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council has a data subcommittee focused on implementing technology upgrades throughout the court system.
And the Oklahoma County Jail Trust, a nine-member body in charge of reforming the jail, wrote in the recently released jail administrator job description that the individual must understand and use data to effectively run the jail.
“This is so important because it really comes down to whether people are receiving their due process,” said Trustee Francie Ekwerekwu, who sat in on the computer system bid evaluation meetings. “Making sure that our systems work correctly and efficiently and constitutionally is invaluable.”
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