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It always comes down to the IT guys

The joint processing center that’s on the Harris County ballot this year will need a new computer system to fully realize its gains.


The so-called “jail management system,” which the Sheriff’s Office hopes will be up and running at least a year before the processing center would open, will allow the jail to track the tens of thousands of inmates it books every year electronically, in one main system, rather than with paper and stand-alone databases.

“We process inmates primarily using stacks of paper,” said Capt. Greg Summerlin, who helped write the request for proposals seeking vendors to operate the system.

That means that when an inmate’s paperwork is stuck in a stack at the fingerprinting station and he or she needs to be seen in court, pre-trial services, or the medical ward, the inmate – and everyone else – has to wait.

“It’s very inefficient, it’s very cumbersome,” Summerlin said.

Several vendors have responded to the request, Summerlin said, and staff hopes to recommend one to Harris County Commissioners Court for approval before the end of the year.

Under the new electronic system, the paper index cards currently used to keep track of inmates will go away.


Officials estimated the processing center would take about three years to complete.

Asked whether there is concern about the jail management system rolling out on time, Summerlin said they are on track to select a vendor before the end of the year and that the system should go live within 12 to 18 months after a contract is signed early next year. A review committee is overseeing the implementation of the system, he said.

They ought to have the time to get the new system in place, and unlike some other high-profile IT projects that have been in the news lately, they won’t have a hard start date. Big IT projects are always messy and take longer than you expect, and I’ll be surprised if the new system is running smoothly by the time the new facility is completed, assuming the referendum passes. Just remember as the inevitable bugs get worked out that it’s always like this.

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