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Officials reveal the consequences of an interruption that allowed 100 inmates to be released

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) – Key officials in our criminal justice system revealed how bad the effects were from a 48-hour computer outage in March, which led to more than 100 inmates being released from Harris County Jail.

The “JWEB” system is used by the district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s office, the district secretary, and judges. It was shut down in March after a maintenance failure due to an old switch. Harris County Universal Services is responsible for checking the system and has not been able to explain why the error occurred.

During Harris County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday, Universal Services analyzed what happened and what has been done to prevent it from ever happening again.

But dissatisfied stakeholders who rely on the system spoke out against universal services, claiming that their communication has been nothing but deficient and they have not yet provided any real answers or a solution.

Mark Antill, IT director for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, spoke about the aftermath and consequences of the system’s failure.

“The sheriff’s office and the constables’ (office) all had to go to the paper,” Antill said. “We lost the computer-assisted dispatch system. All calls that came in at 911 were handwritten, and radios were used to talk to patrol officers, and then they had to write it down.”

According to Antill, they were forced to use paper for 40 minutes during the network outage. The sheriff’s office receives about 200 calls an hour.

Without a functioning network, deputies could not run license plates or criminal histories, which Antill said became an officer security issue.

All admissions at the Harris County Joint Processing Center (JPC) were suspended, and the sheriff’s office was unable to target inmates because the district attorney’s admissions system was down.

“We had about 300 prisoners on hold during this time, in our detention areas, (which is close to our capacity,” Antill said. “We were also required to release 102 prisoners because they did not submit their probable case on time. . “

The Harris County District Attorney was visibly frustrated with the system and appeared in the commissioner’s court. District Attorney Kim Ogg said the criminal justice system and the entire public safety net in Harris County came to a standstill.

RELATED: Interrogation Underway Interruption Releasing More Than 100 Harris County Prisoners

“Those of us who run this criminal justice system were suddenly unable to share any data across departments,” Ogg said. “The police were not the only ones flying blind. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office flew blind, the attorney’s office flew blind, and the courts eventually flew blind. When we can not see who we are dealing with or what we is dealing with, it poses a major threat to law enforcement and everyone else involved. “

According to Ogg, DA’s office brings 250 to 300 cases per. day. The system error immediately stopped consuming these criminal cases.

“The sheriff’s office was dealing with a number of inmates who had a capacity, and we could not tell them what the charges were,” Ogg said. “The danger that the mass release poses to the public is not quantifiable. Fortunately, none of the known offenders who were released came out and committed more serious offenses that weekend. I can not comment on the time since then.”

Stakeholders asked the Commissioner’s Court to take control of the JWEB and remove it from universal services.

“We can not be held responsible or what Universal Services is not responsible for,” Ogg said. “JWEB Management must return to the legal system experts, those of us who operate the system, those of us who are legally responsible for the data integrated into this system.”

Under the Commissioner’s right, Universal Services presented a presentation explaining how they tried to ensure that the system would not fail again. Among the changes shown are a project to replace obsolete switches and a library of Universal Service data that will act as a backup to reduce recovery time.

Commissioner Tom Ramsey, who was also unhappy with the analyzes, said it was the most generic presentation he had ever listened to and that there is nothing more offensive to him than slides he cannot read.

ABC13 has approached Universal Services to get their response to the stakeholders asking to take control from them.

For updates on this story, follow Brooke Taylor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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