YOUNGSTOWN - The first phase of a project to link computer systems from the Mahoning County Jail to the common pleas and other court systems should be finished by the beginning of 2013.
The system, known as ''E Justice,'' will be up and running in the jail by then and the rest of the court system should be linked within the first quarter of the new year, said county IT Director Jake Williams.
The plan is to eventually also link the system with the county courts and municipal courts in the county.
The goal of the program is to allow judges to get a real time look at the inmate population in the jail when they are determining matters such as bail or sentencing.
The county received a $300,000 grant from U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, to implement the system, but it went unused for several years as several departments and the sheriff's office debated how the system would be set up and who would have access to classified criminal information.
Earlier this year, the various departments were able to hammer out an agreement on the installation and use of the program, which was highly recommended by a consultant group studying overcrowding issues at the county jail which led to a lawsuit the county lost in federal court.
First phase of ''E Justice'' system to be installed at Mahoning County Jail by the first of year
Courts should come online within the first quarter of 2013
System allows judges to see real time data on jail population
Recommended by consulting firm to combat jail overcrowding
Auditor Michael Sciortino, who heads up the county's Data Processing Board, said that 80 computers are set to be installed in the jail for their part of the network.
Williams said judges can then have access to the network wherever they are, either on the bench with a laptop or in their chambers.
The program should help the county cut down on any overcrowding issues.
''You can't efficiently manage what you can't measure,'' Sciortino said. ''This system will allow us to do that. And hopefully that means justice will be better served.''
The county had several vendors who bid for the installation but the lowest bid was submitted by Intellitech of Poland.
Right now, finding the right software is the biggest issue, but that should be ironed out shortly, Williams said.