Sheriff wary of unified computer system

By Peter H. Milliken


Two Mahoning County officials say they want the county to have a single jail- management information system, but the sheriff is concerned about protecting confidential law-enforcement data.

“The new technology will interface through creating an e-justice system,” a system for law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and judges, County Auditor Michael V. Sciortino told county commissioners Thursday.

Sciortino said he doesn’t want the county to risk losing a $300,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant it received in 2009 for this project.

The county already has broadband links between its buildings and City Hall, where municipal court is located, which will make this project possible, he said.

The system would be integrated with the Courtview computer system already used in the local courts, and it would be available to judges on their bench-top computers, Scior- tino said. It would allow analysis of lengths of jail stays, inmate and criminal charges and inmate release orders.

The system would help judges make sentencing decisions, let them know when a speedy trial deadline is approaching, and help prevent unnecessarily long pretrial inmate stays that crowd the county jail, he added.

“We’re not going to have two different computer systems,” said John A. McNally IV, chairman of the county commissioners.

“I’m not in favor of a separate system that the sheriff’s department deals with and then requires the courts to deal with a separate system to monitor some of these inmate issues,” McNally said. “If it’s issues of security, those issues can be worked out,” McNally added.

The need for such a system was demonstrated by a 2006 study of the county’s criminal justice system by the National Institute of Corrections, which said the county has “an underdeveloped analytic capability” in its justice system, Sciortino said.

“The way it is proposed by the sheriff’s department to administer this process is a stand-alone island in the justice center administering their own program. That is not what e-justice is about. That is not what this grant is about,” Sciortino said.

“I’m not going to share classified information with anybody but my department, my investigators. It’s very sensitive. When it becomes non-classified, I’ll share it with anybody else,” said Sheriff Randall A. Wellington.

The sheriff defined classified information as that which pertains to ongoing investigations.

The county already protects confidential information on adoption records and client information kept by the county’s mental-health and children services boards, said Carol McFall, chief deputy county auditor.

“There are a lot of organizations in this county who have very special information that has to be protected, and they are all under the county’s domain,” she concluded.

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