Computer Crash Briefly Sends County Jail Back to Paper Age

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Olmstead

An 18-hour crash Monday of a 30-year-old computer system at Cook County Jail delayed court hearings and interfered with the release of some prisoners, a jail watchdog said Tuesday.

"The jail had to go back to 30-year-old technology," said Charles Fasano of the John Howard Association, a group that monitors conditions at the jail as part of a consent decree in a federal lawsuit over jail overcrowding.

Guards had to issue paper passes to prisoners and write down booking information to be entered into computer systems later, said Fasano. Some prisoners missed or were late to their court hearings, and others may have been delayed in getting released from jail on time, which could lead to lawsuits, Fasano said.

Fasano made the revelation at the county board meeting as part of a plea by the sheriffAEs department for the board to release $1.1 million that has been budgeted. Cook County Undersheriff Zelda Whittler said a new computer system is already being installed through pre-allocated funds, but the $1.1 million is needed to write software to get more than two decades of archived information out of the old system and into the new system. …