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New computer system will better track inmates at Sedgwick County Jail

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at 7:34 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at 6:56 a.m.

In the past, one inmate accidentally released from the Sedgwick County Jail was a man charged with first-degree murder (2001). Another was a drug dealer accused of torturing a 14-year-old boy (1990). Another was a man charged with kidnapping and robbery (1991).

Starting Sunday, when county employees install a new computer software system, virtually every move an inmate makes, every contact with a visitor and every transfer from one cell to another will be tracked inside the jail like never before, jail officials said.

The new system will make it much harder for inmates to outwit the system or for record-keeping errors to lead to accidental releases or other mistakes, said Maj. Glenn Kurtz, the sheriff’s bureau commander for detention.

Kurtz said sheriff’s and county employees are proud of the new system in part because “talented county employees wrote it.” He and other jail employees demonstrated the new system on Friday.

Sedgwick County bought the old software system, and had to pay at least $68,000 a year to maintain it. The new system, Kurtz said, will save that money, and will be more efficient to run because it was custom-made for all the nuances of the Sedgwick County Jail. “This software was written specifically for how we do business here,” Kurtz said.

The jail, designed to hold 1,158 inmates, currently holds 1,354, including 192 that it pays $30 a day to other counties to house.

Those inmates’ average length of stay is 19.6 days. Some are held for a few hours; others are held for years. There are 32,000 inmates processed in and out of the jail every year, and most are entitled to have visitors, go to chapel and go to court (and usually come back). Sometimes they are moved from one jail pod to another.

Keeping track of all those people making all those moves means daily and sometimes hourly record keeping, done by employees using desktop computers. Kurtz said it was spotty at times with the old system.

With the new system, those jail deputies from the staff of 315 who track inmates’ movements will be able to quickly and efficiently do so. Jailers can easily track and double-check the identity of inmates leaving the jail with a click or two of a computer mouse, instantly accessing a color photo of inmate faces, fingerprints, charges and other records. And if there is some sort of problem with an inmate, such as that he’s considered dangerous, that line in his computer file will appear on the screen in yellow highlight.

“The data is much more searchable, and we can extract information a lot more easily,” Kurtz said.

There will be one little hold-up in the installation of the new system, Kurtz said.

He said the new system will take almost eight hours to install. So starting about 10 a.m. Sunday, inmates won’t be moved around. Several cells will be emptied in case arresting officers need to bring new inmates to the jail, but those people will then have to sit in those cells, unprocessed, perhaps for hours, until the new system is declared fully operational and record keeping can resume.

Sunday would therefore be an unusually aggravating day to get arrested, Kurtz said, tongue in cheek. “There might be a long wait.”

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