‘I’ve done my time.’ People in Dallas Jail waiting longer for release as county struggles with tech

Changes to the technology platforms continue to slow down Dallas County court and jail processing.

By Bret Jaspers, KERA NewsJuly 12, 2023 10:08 am, ,

From KERA News:

Jennifer Goolsby said she had done her time for a 2018 drug possession charge — but spent more than a week in the Dallas County jail after that, wondering if she’d be able to attend her brother’s memorial service.

She said she had to wait for a bureaucratic and opaque paperwork process to work itself out. At the same time, Goolsby was stressed about possibly missing the memorial service this Saturday.

“I did break the law and I’m supposed to do my time, but I’ve done my time. I’ve done well over my time,” Goolsby said while she was still in custody and didn’t know when she’d get out. “I really want to say goodbye to my brother.”

While the exact cause of the delay in Goolsby’s release is not clear, defense attorneys who practice in Dallas County say her situation is unfortunately not unique, especially right now.

The county’s transition to a new court case database – as well as some county staff being cut off from a separate tech platform managed by the jail – has led to significant processing delays.

Jennifer Goolsby. Courtesy Of Kathy Weidman

Waiting and waiting

Goolsby pled guilty to a state jail felony on June 29th. That turned her case from active to “disposed.” Her sentence was 400 days, which she said was covered by the jail credit of 448 days for the time she had already spent in custody, off and on, related to the 2018 crime.

Here’s where the bureaucracy comes in: after the Dallas County Jail receives disposition paperwork from the courts for a crime like Goolsby’s, it then sends paperwork to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. TDCJ then processes and transmits its own release. Once the county gets the state release, someone in Goolsby’s situation can walk out of jail.

Goolsby’s partner, Kathy Weidman, said TDCJ informed her on July 5 it still hadn’t received the paperwork. The state also told her no paperwork on any inmate had come from Dallas County since June 28. A complicating factor was that the jail system had Goolsby listed under her maiden name of Williams.

“I cannot find who in Dallas County is responsible,” Weidman said. “That is the issue here. Who is responsible for this?”

Meanwhile, all Goolsby could do was send grievances through a kiosk for inmates at the jail. Inmates on the inside, she said, are “kind of blind.”

It’s unclear precisely where in the process the delay occurred. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and Chief Public Defender Lynn Richardson – whose office defended Goolsby – did not respond to KERA’s requests for interviews.

A TDCJ spokesperson said in an email that the department was operating with its normal protocol of processing paperwork in three business days. It referred all other questions to the county.

KERA contacted District Clerk Felicia Pitre on July 7. On Monday, July 10, she said in an email that Goolsby’s information had been sent to TDCJ.

Then, that evening, Goolsby got out. She was elated, yet still unsure how she would get to California for the memorial.

“That is the most important thing to me,” she said over Weidman’s speakerphone.

On Tuesday July 11, Pitre said the state sent its release letter back to the sheriff’s department on the 10th.

Whatever the cause of the delay in Goolsby’s specific case, she’s not the only one. The county’s technology problems are exacerbating existing red tape, attorneys say.

Dallas County Clerk John Warren. Tony Gutierrez / AP

Tech woes

Dallas County has been struggling with a shift to a new criminal court case database since May. A separate complication is that some users of another criminal justice database managed by the jail, the Adult Information System (AIS), recently had their access cut off.

“Some employees who have not done their required fingerprints, and /or training have been temporarily disconnected pending completion of same,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement on June 20th regarding AIS.

The jail population, meanwhile, is now consistently in the 6,300 to 6,400 range, about 88% capacity. The jail hovered in the 5700 range during the second week of May.

Goolsby said that during her court appearance in late June, she saw attorneys representing other clients learning how to use the new court case system.

“They were being reminded by the judge, ‘hey, in order to put that motion through, you have to do it this way,’” Goolsby said. “But of course, that takes time.”

In her email, Pitre said her office was “overwhelmingly busy with the challenges of the new case management system.” She also included a description of the paperwork process written by her staff, which said not having AIS access has made it “very difficult” for clerks to get information from the sheriff’s department on how much back-time inmates had served.

Defense attorneys in Dallas County say the move to the new criminal case database, called Odyssey, is welcome. The older Forvus system had been in place for decades. Other counties – plus Dallas County’s civil courts – already use Odyssey.

That said, the rocky transition has had serious consequences.

Douglas Huff, president of the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said he knows of another inmate who has been in custody for weeks beyond his sentence. That man is hoping his release is processed before it’s too late to visit his dad in hospice care.

“If someone is sitting in a cage for any longer than they’re absolutely supposed to, then we’ve failed them,” Huff said. “That is something that must be addressed. Otherwise … we’re hurting people.”

Some of the problems pre-existed the transition, attorneys said, although the slowdown has been noticeable since the database transition and change in AIS access. Huff said things that used to require a matter of hours take days. Something that required days can now take weeks.


Dallas County Clerk John Warren told KERA the transition to Odyssey is not the cause of delays in jail releases, because both the county and district clerk’s offices physically walk disposition paperwork to the jail three times a day.

He said complaints by county employees at last month’s jail population meeting that the Forvus-to-Odyssey transition is connected to the rising jail population are “grossly incorrect.”

Warren couldn’t speak about AIS, which is managed by the sheriff’s department. He said the county has a very small number of software developers who can integrate the county’s various tech platforms. Some of those platforms are bought from private companies.

Warren also said there’s a fair amount of data still needing to be transferred from the old system to the new one – and that doesn’t happen with a few clicks.

“You have to move it to what’s required based on today’s standards,” he said.

Attorney Charlie Humphreys, who is also a bail bondsman, said he has had clients who haven’t gotten out promptly. Yet he was more sympathetic to the officials leading the change.

“I’m hoping that once Odyssey is all set up here in the next 30 to 45 days where everybody understands it and it’s running smoothly, hopefully a lot of these problems will be resolved,” Humphreys said. “But you’re also talking about problems that have been around for years.”

The next challenge

Goolsby said her family was considering pushing the memorial service back a day or two so she can make it. Either way, she has just a few days to figure out how to get to California. Flying would be the fastest, although she doesn’t have a photo I.D.

“I just have a social security card and I’m going to try to see what I can do on getting out there,” Goolsby said.

On Monday night, though, she was only seeking a bit of normality.

“I am going to try to talk Kathy into letting me stop somewhere and get something to eat,” she said. “And then we’re going to go home.”

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