Computer system, teamwork keeping local jail numbers down

Ruth Campbell
Midland Reporter-Telegram

New computer program; slowdown in criminal activity; cooperation among law enforcement, DA's office, judges helps speed cases along.

A combination of teamwork and computer programs that help law enforcement and judges track criminals better has reduced the number of inmates at the Midland County Jail in the past 23 days.

Up until then, County Judge Mike Bradford said the county had been farming out 35-40 inmates a week at a cost of $35-$40 per day, per inmate. That translated to $20,000-$70,000 a month. Last budget year, the Sheriff's Office spent $801,000 to place the overflow of suspects, County Auditor Veronica Morales has said.

The Midland County Jail has a 306-bed capacity, and officials are looking into expansion.

One factor in keeping inmates in town is the slowdown in criminal activity, Sheriff Gary Painter said. He said it should pick up when the weather gets warmer.

The new Spillman computer system, which generates a report for judges each Monday listing all the people in jail and charges against them, also has helped.

“We cut down on the time between a case getting to the (Midland County District Attorney's Office) and (when it starts) processing. We've cut 25 days out of that,” Bradford said.

He added when other agencies send inmates to Midland County, they should pick them up at the appointed time or continue to be charged for their incarceration.

“The docket rollout, you can call it a rocket docket, you can call it anything. What it is is good data telling judges what kind of cases they have waiting for them in the jail, so they can bunch them up and handle them much quicker,” Bradford said.

Prior to the software implementation about two months ago, jurists had to look at a weekly printout of cases with their coordinators. But sometimes the accuracy was “not the best,” District Judge John Hyde said.

The Spillman program has been “immensely” helpful, he said.

“It allows not only district courts and county courts to have access to the daily jail list, but it also gives our pretrial bonding office and the District Attorney's Office daily access to that,” Hyde said.

When you log on, you get the name of the individual in jail, the date of his or her arrest, the charge filed against the person — whether it's a felony or misdemeanor, whether they have been indicted and how long they have been in jail, he said.

“That becomes important because if a person remains in jail for 90 days without being indicted, the law requires that they be released on bond until such time as indictment has been returned,” Hyde said.

“By being able to monitor the names and time they've been in jail, someone doesn't become forgotten in the system. With as many as 300 people in jail in a county this size, sometimes names can be overlooked, but the accuracy of the system the sheriff has implemented is of great importance to us,” he added.

Another thing the Spillman system does is allow judges to keep track of inmates who have all their paperwork ready to enter the state prison system. The so-called pen pack includes the judgment, the offense report and all the documents necessary to transfer inmates to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The system also can show judges if a pre-sentencing report or any other paperwork is missing, Hyde said.

District Attorney Teresa Clingman echoed Painter, saying the computer system has helped, but it's the cooperation of the pretrial bonding department, sheriff, police, jail and the city's computer system has helped speed things up.

“It allows us to go straight into (the city's) system and download the officers' report within about 24-48 hours of the officer having written it,” Clingman said. Previously, it took a minimum of 10 days for the DA's office to get police reports.

“We are whipping and spurring,” she said.