By John Seasly, Herald Staff Writer
In conjunction with the new countywide electronic records management system, the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department has developed a jail website accessible to the public. On the website, which is still under construction, viewers can find information on past and current inmates of the security center.
The online information is useful to the public for a number of reasons, Sheriff Donny Lampert said. Victims of a crime can see whether the accused is still in jail. Families of an inmate can find out his bond. The media can confirm the specific charges against someone.
“It’s just a good tool for everyone all around,” Lampert said.
The website, http://www.duboiscountysd.com, eventually will have more than just inmate data. Lampert hopes the site will have general information on the jail, like visitation times, phone numbers and a list of acceptable items visitors can bring inmates.
A year ago, the jail website was only an idea. It was made possible because of a larger effort by local law enforcement officials to bring their records into the digital age. The electronic records management system allows local departments to share information with each other and with other law enforcement and government agencies.
“The biggest thing that InterAct does is it allows you to pull up more information quicker,” Lampert said of the interactive computer system provided by InterAct of Winston-Salem, N.C.
Unlike the jail website, the record-keeping system is not open to the public because it contains confidential information about arrests and investigations. Officers can use the database to search for somebody based on specific criteria like a last name, a street address, criminal history or vehicle model.
For the sheriff’s department, the system is a radical step up, said Sgt. Forrest Kieser, who helped supervise the system’s installation.
“To put it real bluntly — and I’m not sure how else to put it — it’s like going from the Stone Age to the modern era,” Kieser said.
The records system was funded primarily by $100,000 from the county’s law enforcement continuing education fund. All law enforcement agencies in the county deposit money into this fund, and much of it sat unused for years. In November 2011, law enforcement and government officials expressed unanimous support for the online records system.
The system went live in July. With it, information is more easily accessible and officers can attach photos or other paperwork to their reports. Instead of a separate file of names for each agency, a master file exists for the entire county.
“The guys seem to like it,” Huntingburg Police Chief Arthur Parks said of his officers’ reaction to the system.
The master file is a major improvement, said Nathan Schmitt, assistant chief of the Jasper Police Department. The departments don’t exist in isolation, and the records system makes it easy to exchange information.
“We’re dealing with the same people,” Schmitt said.