The Bexar County Courthouse.
The Bexar County Courthouse. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Bexar County commissioners approved a $20 million agreement on Tuesday to integrate the county’s justice information into one database.

Tyler Technologies, a Plano-based company that provides technology solutions to local and state governments, will implement and help operate a new integrated justice system for the next five years.

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, the county clerk, the district clerk, the district attorney, district courts, county courts, judicial and pretrial services, and the juvenile probation department all will be able to put their records into the Enterprise County Integrated Justice System (eCIJS). This integration will allow the justice system to function more smoothly, said County Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3). For example, when someone gets arrested, there are multiple departments involved.

“There are the records that have to be kept by the sheriff,” Wolff said. “There are criminal charges that the DA has to have access to. The judge has to have access to those same charges as they adjudicate the case. The clerk has to have access so defense attorneys have access. …

“What you’re looking at now is an integrated online system so the judge can look at the same thing that the DA can be looking at, the sheriff can be looking at, the clerk can be looking at.”

Chief Technology Officer Evan O’Mahoney said Tuesday that the Information Technology Department expects to roll out the system over 30 months. He assured commissioners that all old information will be transferred to the new system and that access to information will be highly restricted, preventing accidental deletion.

O’Mahoney showed Tuesday that Bexar County’s current technology is fairly outdated. He highlighted a new content management system for court cases, comparing the current system that Bexar County used with a page designed by Tyler Technologies. The current system uses code words and is just text on a black screen, while the updated system uses drop-down menus, photographs, and case overviews.

Some of the new features that the integrated system will provide include text messaging people reminders about court dates, a workbench page for judges to access relevant files in court, and RFID tracking of inmates in the Bexar County Jail.

The commissioners also approved a $550,065 agreement with Guardian RFID to implement RFID inmate tracking; a $500,000 agreement with research company Gartner, which helped the county negotiate with Tyler Technologies; and capped spending on additional staff assistance for the IT Department throughout the integrated system project at $650,000.

Wolff said the attempt to consolidate all justice-related information into one system from several databases has been a county goal for more than a decade and joked that the commissioners had caught a “unicorn,” comparing a successfully integrated system to the mythical horned creature.

According to Chief Information Officer Mark Gager, the county has been trying to integrate its information since 2004. Two of the vendors the county previously contracted to implement a new integrated system went bankrupt before they could complete the project.

“Go lasso that unicorn!” Wolff said to Gager and O’Mahoney after the commissioners approved the contracts.

The integrated system for the civil court system is expected to go live in December 2020, and the criminal court system will go live January 2022.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.