View Full Version : Rankin inmates' wristbands part of high-tech system

02-28-2005, 10:10 AM

At a glance

The system: Motorola Offendertrak
What it does: Jail administrators will have access to criminal histories, aliases and court status simply by scanning a wristband worn by the inmate. The inmate's picture also can be viewed when the wristband is scanned.
Computerized notes can be made along with the inmate's record, bans can be placed on certain visitors and an unlimited number of offenses can be listed. The system is totally computer-based, doing away with the piles of paperwork it takes to keep track of an inmate.

By Jeremy Hudson

Inmates at the Rankin County Adult Detention Center soon will sport wristbands that when scanned by a computer can list criminal histories, aliases and court status, Sheriff Ronnie Pennington said.

Rankin County obtained the Motorola Offendertrak jail management system last year as part of a $2 million package purchased with funds from drug seizures. It is designed to electronically streamline jail records and ensure no one is mistakingly released from jail. The system, part of a larger project that will allow dispatchers to monitor a large computer screen that shows the exact location of all police vehicles in the county, is expected to be in place by May.

"Now everything is in paperwork first, then loaded into the computer," Pennington said. "People have to go through two and three different screens to get to anything. This program will help us be more time-efficient and be certain about what we are doing."

The system would have been helpful in December when a woman falsely used a cellmate's name to obtain bond from the Rankin County jail. Three deputies were disciplined for releasing Trametria Brinson, 21, of Jackson, who was being held without bond on a felony shoplifting charge.

"The deputies took her word and didn't check the photo and file of the girl who was supposed to be released," Pennington said. "It has made us tighten our policy. Now, everyone who is booked in, when they have their picture taken, it is stapled to their booking card. That has to be looked at every time someone is released."

Brinson was captured in Denham Springs, La., after she was stopped on a traffic violation. She since has been charged with escape, Pennington said.

"We are hoping this new system will totally do away with problems like that," Pennington said.

It is the same system the Mississippi Department of Corrections purchased in January 2004 to manage about 21,000 inmates and 20,000 parolees and probationers, said Suzanne Singletary, MDOC director of communications. MDOC paid $6.4 million for the system, used by more than 3,500 corrections officials in the state, officials said.

It is a comprehensive solution that allows offender information to be recorded once and used often by personnel throughout MDOC as well as private prisons and regional facilities that house MDOC offenders, said Audrey McAfee, MDOC director of management information systems.

MDOC can capture an unlimited number of offenses with the associated details, make notes throughout the inmate's record, list a ban on a visitor and have the action viewable at all MDOC facilities and locations, she said. It also keeps track of people who are out of prison but are on supervision through probation, parole, house arrest or earned release, said MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps.

In Hinds County and Jackson, officers and judges usually have to scramble to track down criminal history and court information for people already jailed. The system would reduce the legwork needed to keep tabs on defendants, officials said.

But Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin, whose agency faced a $400,000 budget shortfall last fiscal year, said talk of any upgrades at his jail are pointless.

"The Hinds County Board of Supervisors, in not adequately funding this agency, is going to have to bear some of the responsibility for injuries and loss of property being caused by criminals in this county," McMillin said. "The board promised they would expand this jail, then reneged on that promise. I can't even think about any kind of upgrades."

Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Doug Anderson pointed out McMillin didn't object or ask for any extra funding during last year's budget hearings. The Sheriff's Department budget, $15.9 million, is up from $14.8 million last year and $14.6 million the two previous years, Anderson said.

With that budget, the department overspent by $622,000 and had to be bailed out by supervisors, Anderson said.

"We took care of his concerns," Anderson said.

Jackson Police Chief Robert Moore said, despite the fact most pretrial detainees are picked up by his department, Offendertrak "doesn't address what my real needs are" and he wouldn't be interested in talking about a county-city partnership that would allow such a system to be purchased.

A program like Offendertrak is a jail issue that the county should address, Moore said. Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. said the city was aware of Offendertrak, but it has not been explored as an option to solving existing problems.