County Jail Moves to Biometrics Systems for Inmate Identification

Nov. 16--No more escapees like Troy Bauer.

That's Sedgwick County Sheriff Gary Steed's goal with a computerized fingerprint identification system that went into operation this week at the Sedgwick County Jail.

Bauer escaped the jail on Oct. 3 by impersonating an inmate scheduled for release, becoming the 10th inmate to fool jailers since 2001. He was recaptured on Oct. 7.

"I'm actually pretty proud of our record," Steed said, noting that the jail had processed more than 150,000 inmates in that period.

But that's still too many escapees, he said, which is why the new system is being added to existing procedures.

"We want to cut that error rate down," Steed said. "Any time we're dealing with people, we have human errors."

The computer scans two fingerprints of inmates that are being booked and stores them in a database. When it is time for inmates to be released, their fingerprints are scanned again and compared to the prints on file.

There is no ink used, Steed said.

"It's biometrics," he said.

The Afix Verifier System cost $13,600 and was paid for with a grant.

"It doesn't really add significantly to the work that the deputies have to do," Steed said, because it doesn't take long to scan the fingerprints.

None of the 10 inmates who escaped were considered "serious criminals," Steed said, but officials are still determined to improve processing procedures.

As the volume of inmates entering and leaving the jail increases, he said, mistakes caused by human error figure to increase as well. That's why adding the new verification system was so important.

"This will reduce that number" of mistakes, Steed said.

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