New software helps Ga. jail separate rival gangs, reduce human error

Officials hope the software will also increase officer safety when working with violent inmates


By Nick Watson
The Times

HALL COUNTY, Ga. — Breaking up is hard to do.

As the Hall County Sheriff’s Office moved toward its new records management and jail management systems, it meant a “divorce” between the department sharing information with the courthouse through the Comprehensive Justice Information System.

“We’ve been married for so long together, that since we broke up we’re all having to relearn and do duties that we never used to have to do,” said Lt. Stephanie Gilbert.

But with a few weeks under their collective belts, Sheriff’s Office officials are reporting greater efficiency in the new system.

CJIS, which linked jail and arrest information to the Hall County court system, was first implemented in the 1980s.

The Sheriff’s Office is now using Superion’s ONESolution Records Management System, Jail Management System and Mobile Field Reporting.

“In recent years, it became apparent that CJIS would not meet the demands of the county as it experiences continued growth,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a statement. “One example of CJIS’s limitations was the amount of data entry required to keep it up to date.”

Beginning with making reports, deputies now have an online system that alerts them if they make a mistake before sending it along to a supervisor.

“It will not let you submit to a supervisor until you’ve corrected all the mistakes,” Gilbert said.

The report can also be tracked in real time, and any supervisor can sign off on a correction to a report. The result is cutting the lag time on giving reports to the public by three to five days.

Deputies have in-car terminals with access to warrant information, previous calls to a certain location and more.

Along with the jail management system, Capt. Sean McCusker said this can be vitally important for deputies working with inmates or suspects that have been known to be violent or have anger issues.

“In the past, you had to read and get to a screen and hopefully in the notes somebody put (that) in there,” McCusker said.

Sgt. Ryan Daly can place a person’s ID into a reader that auto-populates information on the monitor in his patrol car.

“I wish we had it eight years ago when I started. It’s a huge difference. It’s amazing how you scan a couple things, push a couple buttons — I don’t even have to pull out a pen,” Daly said.

When Daly or any other officer makes an arrest and is headed to the jail, the person can be pre-booked and entered into a booking queue. By the time the detainee arrives at the Barber Road jail, everything is ready for processing.

Clerical training coordinator David Kelley said it can double the output in terms of people moving through booking.

“It’s a much faster, streamlined version of what we used to do, where everything had to be entered by hand, piece by piece,” he said.

While some staff at the courthouse have experienced trouble in November during the switch between systems, McCusker and others worked on training and improving access for courthouse employees needing certain information.

As of Dec. 5, McCusker and others created access for more than 100 users at the courthouse into the new system.

“Anytime there’s a conversion, there will be a learning curve,” Hall County Management Information Systems Director James Thomas said in a statement. “That is why we are taking our time, working out bugs, holding frequent meetings to evaluate our progress, and above all, making sure that citizen safety is never compromised.”

Thomas said in a news release he believes the systems “will become completely integrated into county operations during the first few months of 2019,” with all speed bumps being smoothed out by then.

At the jail, Sgt. Jeff Ashley said a good amount of human error has been removed from the system, including a feature that keeps members of rival gangs separated.

“When it goes time for the classification process and I’m going to place (an inmate) in housing, that pod location doesn’t even become available for me to even put that inmate in the same pod,” he said.

Without having to run around to several different departments, Kelley can generate reports all from his laptop that were previously not possible.

“There’s a lot of reports in here that help me see how efficiently we’re running, clearly stating how many we’ve booked today, how many we booked yesterday, same time last year, month to date, year to date,” he said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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