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Dallas County Delays Vote on Controversial Jail Software

Work on software with the potential to help operate the Dallas County jail continues to be on hold after the jurisdiction’s commissioners court failed to take up the issue at its Tuesday meeting.

by Nic Garcia, The Dallas Morning News / November 20, 2019
Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

(TNS) — Work on software to help operate the Dallas County, Texas, jail continues to be on hold after the commissioners court failed to take up the issue at its Tuesday meeting.

Dallas County staff is still developing a menu of options for the commissioners to consider as it decides whether to move forward with the software being developed with TechShare, a multi-county organization that builds software to help governments do their work.

The county was set to enter a new phase of putting into place the jail software until Commissioner J.J. Koch, a Republican who represents mostly north Dallas County, earlier this month blocked a vote on a contract that would have set in motion the next stage of the project.

Koch said at the time he was concerned that the county was about to repeat a multi-million dollar mistake. Previously, Dallas County spent more than $30 million investing in TechShare software that was supposed to help judges track cases.

TechShare began development of the case-tracking software in 2012. It still has not been deployed, and Dallas stopped paying for any further development for that software earlier this year.

Like the case-tracking software, the jail software is supposed to help the jail manage an inmate’s stay from booking to release.

Koch said he was not surprised by the delay, and he hopes the county will abandon TechShare in its entirety and find off-the-shelf software to manage the jail.

“It’s just a complete lack of trust,” he said.

Commissioner Theresa Daniel, a Democrat who represents eastern Dallas County and sits on the TechShare board, insists the jail software development is nearly ready and under budget. She warned the court that a delay would only cost the county more money.

Dallas County has already spent $7 million for the jail software and spent $1.2 million more on its project managers. The contract the court was considering did not ask for additional funds. However, county documents suggested additional funds would be needed before the program was fully operational.

Daniel echoed her original comments Tuesday.

“The more you delay, the more you don’t have the exact people who are very familiar with the project being available,” she said.

Dallas County staff are expected to present different options to the court at its Dec. 3 meeting.

©2019 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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