April 24, 2004

Jail Kiosks

Inmates enter their booking number at kiosks to access legal information.

09:13 PM PDT on Friday, April 23, 2004

By LISA O'NEILL HILL / The Press-Enterprise

Inmates hid weapons and notes in the pages of the heavy law books available in Riverside County's five jails. They ripped pages out and scribbled all over them.

"It was just a problem trying to maintain them," said Riverside County Sheriff's Capt. Alan Flanary, commander of the Indio Jail.

But jail staff members haven't had to worry about keeping up the books for a while. They were replaced a few years ago by computers that allow inmates access to legal information.

Carrie Rosema / The Press-Enterprise
Correctional deputy Michelle Jones accesses the online law libraries at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside. The center has three such kiosks.

In February, the jails got their latest technological boost: wall-mounted, state-of-the-art kiosks that inmates use by touching shatterproof screens.

The kiosks look similar to ATM machines. All an inmate has to do to use it is touch the screen and enter his booking number.

He then can peruse LexisNexis legal data - such as federal court cases, U.S. Supreme Court cases, legal dictionaries and other information - used by law firms across the country. The computer takes a photograph of the inmate but does not monitor what he is looking at, jail officials said.

Every jail but the Robert Presley Detention Center in downtown Riverside has one kiosk; that jail has three.

"We're probably ahead of a lot of people right now," said Riverside County Sheriff's Cpl. Mary Lou Segovia. "I'm getting phone calls from Texas, San Diego, L.A. Men's Central Jail."

The Law Library allows access to legal data from Lexus Nexus. Law firms across the country use the same database.

Touch Sonic Technologies, a Sonoma County computer and software design company, developed the kiosks. Correctional facilities in Hawaii were the first to install the systems. Riverside County was the second, said Jack Long, vice president of sales and marketing for Touch Sonic Technologies.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department also has done away with books and has electronic law libraries available for inmates.

The law libraries are not Internet-based for security reasons, a spokeswoman said. California prisons still have books, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections said. By law, jails and prisons have to provide inmates access to law libraries in some form.

Long said two other counties in California and a state in the Midwest have committed to installing the kiosks in their correctional systems. He said he has received calls from as far away as New Zealand and Australia.

"It uses pretty state-of-the art-technology," said Long, whose company specializes in kiosk applications for law enforcement and corrections industries. The other key element to the technology for use in prisons, he said, is that it is a closed system that does not involve any connection to the Internet.

Riverside County jails pay $94,400 each year to lease the equipment and to cover the costs of updates, Flanary said. That money comes from inmate welfare funds, he said.

PE.com | Inland Southern California | Local News

Posted by Craig at April 24, 2004 04:03 PM