New bonding process, software saves Smith County about $100,000

Published on Wednesday, 7 May 2014 23:20 - Written by Adam Russell, arussell@tylerpaper.com

A new bonding process and software has saved Smith County about $100,000 so far and might become a revenue stream soon.

Smith County Information Technology Director Don Bell’s department received one of two counties in the state to receive a Texas Association of Government Information Technology Managers Excellence Award for innovation in information technology.

The first-of-its-kind eBond Program shortens the time and labor required to process and manage bail bonds via Web Enabled Electronic Bonding Solution that eliminates physical paperwork and provides a secure way to create and track bail bonds remotely 24 hours a day.

The program eliminates time-consuming and labor-intensive task of physically receiving, processing and archiving bond paperwork and payments for every person booked into the jail.

The program didn’t require funding. More than 8,600 electronic bonds have been processed since the program began in 2013 with estimated savings of more than $100,000.

The program is receiving attention from state, federal and private companies looking to make the same efficiencies.

County Judge Joel Baker and commissioners applauded the effort that saves taxpayers money and expedites the process for jailers, county staff and prisoners alike.

“It shows Smith County is leading the way wherever we can,” he said. “It’s gotten the county and our staff a lot of recognition and will reap benefits for other entities.”

Baker said the program, which belongs to Smith County as intellectual property, could become a moneymaker if used by others.

The need for the program was driven by problems presented by the downtown jail expansion. Closing the jail’s front desk forced the process to a remote location and limited hours, which disrupted the process for everyone and affected already overcrowded facilities.

Chief Deputy Fred Little said the process has cut the booking process significantly to move prisoners in-and-out of jail.

“Any program looking for a smoother operation and any process we can expedite like this so people can be booked in and out quicker, we like it,” he said. “Time is money.”

Bail bondsmen also are seeing savings.

Malcolm Jackson, managing agent for Affordable Bail Bonds, said the program has cut his staff’s work significantly and allows him to work and access information without ever stepping inside the jail.

“I can be on vacation and check to see what’s been done at the office rather than going to the courthouse or jail,” he said.

Jackson said the program was a concerted effort that could not have been created without the county’s sheriff and information and technology departments’ cooperation with other stakeholders, such as bail bondsmen.

All agreed the process can also benefit people hoping to spend the least amount of time possible booked in jail.