Inmates back in custody after glitch leads to release

INDIANAPOLIS (June 20, 2014) – Marion County sheriff’s deputies spent Thursday looking for jail inmates released due to errors in a new criminal court case management system that had criminal justice officials in meetings all day searching for answers.

As of late Thursday night, only Ronald Johnson had remained on the loose after being released while facing a Theft/Receiving Stolen Property charge. He was taken into custody Friday, according to officials from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

“We had three people who were released from the jail,” said Marion County Sheriff’s Colonel Louis Dezelan. “Our information we had on this side is that they should’ve been released. That is the information that we had. What we didn’t have was the follow up information that countered that.”

The inmates were ordered released based on information in the Marion County court’s Odyssey system. Odyssey recently replaced the antiquated JUSTIS system that kept track of offenders and the status of their criminal court cases.

Court Administrator Andrea Newsom told FOX59 News that her staff and criminal justice system partners were working with the contractor and proprietor of the Odyssey system to determine if a software conversion led to the mistaken releases.

“There is a learning curve,” Newsom said about the training of county employees on the new system. She indicated since June 6 that the system experienced a “soft go live,” which would be indicative of a gradual transition between the old system and the new system.

Newsom said that while the JUSTIS system is still accessible, it is not tied into Odyssey. The most recent ten years of JUSTIS criminal history is being maintained at a data warehouse that is accessible to Odyssey, though cases prior to 2004 may no longer be available.

A statement from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office placed the blame for the releases on “the nature of the transition in software systems” and said that the offenders “were apparently released due to computer data exchange issues.”

Marion County was mandated by the Indiana Supreme Court to adopt the Odyssey system.

Odyssey is not the only tech makeover that has bedeviled the fight against crime in Marion County.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has been gradually implementing the InterAct police report system for more than a year. Interact has never been adopted in a city as large as Indianapolis with such a complex and robust policing requirement. Officers have told FOX59 News that they consider the new system as overly complicated and not user-friendly, and were instructed to drastically reduce the amount of information the public and the media would learn from basic police reports. Due to the transition from the previous Tiburon system, IMPD does not have access to current crime statistics or a meaningful way to compare them to 2013 statistics.

In two weeks IMPD’s InterAct Police RMS system will replace the expiring Tiburon Police RMS system. Since the early 1990s, Tiburon has provided the original Computer Aided Dispatch system which directed officers to their first radio and dispatch calls of an incident. Tiburon was also the system where officers and detectives would write their initial reports. Users have indicated that not only is the InterAct system more complex and detailed, they are uncertain whether historical data regarding suspects or addresses will be available.

The sheriff’s department has stumbled in attempts to implement its own revamped offender tracking system inside the jail and Arrestee Processing Center.

The Offender Management System has replaced the Jail Inmate Management System.

Sources tell FOX59 News that suspects arrested and housed at the APC who traditionally would have been processed and released within four hours spent this past weekend sitting in cells for many more hours, perhaps days, due to the staff’s inability to access the more cumbersome OMS.

Internal emails passed to the city’s contractor for operation of the system, Daniels & Associates, would seem to bear out those concerns.

“There have been multiple instances where an arrestee booked on an outright is not showing on the (Marion County Prosecutors Office) screening slate,” reads a June 14 message. “I cannot overstate the importance of getting this fixed ASAP.”

Sheriff’s detectives who serve warrants on wanted suspects have also been thwarted by the Odyssey transition.

“One of the glitches that we have run into at the jail is some of our warrants deputies have had some difficulties printing our warrants but as we speak that is being fixed,” said Dezelan.

On July 1, the revamp of Indiana’s Criminal Code will go into effect. Earlier this week state lawmakers held a meeting to fill the gaps of the code change which left some crimes such as sexual assault and shoplifting unaddressed. The aim of the code change is to downgrade the seriousness of some non-violent crimes, including narcotics possession and sale, while reserving the most serious charges for violent crimes. Several officers tell FOX59 News they are uncertain as to their enforcement and charging options once the code revisions go into effect.

Dezelan said several new systems are only partially integrated, though Court Administrator Newsom said the systems were communicating and sharing information.

Marion County 911 dispatchers have also been shut out of the Odyssey system.

One official told FOX59 News that the Odyssey roll out has been “a total sham,” that the system is “not ready” and “people are confused.” That official said the system was “forced into action before it was ready to go.”