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Jail’s project presents positive possibilities

Thanks to a federally funded booking program, it will soon be a lot more difficult for inmates to try and hide their true identities from Kitsap County Corrections officers.

“This system saves time,” said Jail Superintendent Larry Bertholf. “And it is an important step to getting connected.”

Called “live scan,” the system electronically scans an inmate’s fingerprints at booking time, stores that information, and transfers that data to a state system, dubbed the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

Within a matter of seconds, minutes or under a couple of hours, the inmate’s identification is electronically determined and transmitted back to Kitsap— so long as that inmate’s information was previously recorded.

If not, the inmate’s fingerprint data card is then automatically stored in the system. The quickest transmission, system-wide, reportedly occurred within four seconds.

“It’s like an e-mail,” said Deputy Scott Wilson, a spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s office. “The maximum turnaround time is under about two hours.”

The program, led by the Washington State Patrol, is operated in 11 of the state’s counties, Kitsap being among those to test pilot the system.

The program is now running.

Before the automated system was installed, fingerprint cards were manually entered into the AFIS program for comparison and a detective was required to process them.

Detectives, bogged down with other investigations, couldn’t always get to the workload and the process could start several hours or days later, reaping sluggish results.

Every now and then, inmates tend to give false names or refuse to identify themselves. The live scan system will help officers and court officials side-step problems touched off by such behavior.

The other benefit to live scan is that, with a push of a button, officers can immediately update an inmate’s criminal history record, or “rap sheet” in the Washington Crime Information Center.

Before the technology was made available, inmate information was sent to Olympia, stacked up and entered manually, probably as long as three months later; a lengthy process.

The automated system is a benefit because an inmate’s entire rap sheet could be made available to investigators, prosecutors and a judge quite quickly, even if the suspect was arrested in another jurisdiction.

The pilot program is also expected to save money and manpower.

The Kitsap County jail, on average, books 25 people a day and 175 inmates a week, and it takes about 20 minutes to process each individual. Booking involves taking photos and recording fingerprints.

“Rather than waiting for a long time, identity is verified instantaneously,” Bertholf said.

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