Communication Breakdown

In a rare piece of good news for the Dallas County Jail, InfoIntegration, the infamously incompetent computer firm that lost track of inmates like they were old pairs of tube socks, will not renew its contract when it expires in July. Tonya Brenneman, the founder of the firm, got the lucrative contract the old-fashioned way—on her back, according to a fine story in D magazine that had her admitting to sleeping with the man who wrote the contract for the county.

Whistling, as always, past the graveyard, Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell told The Dallas Morning News that InfoIntegration was the victim merely of bad publicity--as opposed to, say, an unqualified CEO. "In my opinion, they did a good job," he said.

Unable to adjust his opinions to the wealth of information at hand, Cantrell sets the bar rather low considering that thanks to InfoIntegration, dozens of inmates languished in the jail long after their sentence was completed. The News' James O'Neill did a Pulitzer-worthy piece exposing the company, jail and county for this total system breakdown that in essence imposed an additional punishment above and beyond what the judge ordered. (Attorney David Finn reprints the story on his blog.)

Last December, we chronicled the sad plight of Rhenia Chavers, incarcerated at the jail for the high crime of driving with a suspended license. Chavers was behind bars while the InfoIntegration system was just working out a few kinks--no big deal, really, except that her own son couldn't locate her. He called the jail staff, and they said they had no idea where she was. She kind of needed to talk to him. While at the jail, Rhenia Chavers did not receive her Lupus medication and suffered a stroke shortly after her incarceration. When I last talked to her in December, she still had trouble walking.

Then there was the plight of Scott Williams, who wound up at the jail last February on a DUI charge. InfoIntegration lost track of him too, and he wound up at the jail for over a week. We chronicled how good a time he had while he was incarcerated without his HIV medication and his partner unable to come to his aid. A few highlights:

"Williams says that inmates wrote their names in shit on the walls, and a water fountain was the waste receptacle of choice for one inmate with diarrhea.

'There was shit on the toilets. When I'm talking shit, I'm talking an inch of shit,' he says. 'I just squatted over it and pushed and tried to aim as best I could.'"

Williams said that because he wasn't eating sandwiches provided to him, he was forced to strip naked and move to a suicide cell. He shivered for 12 hours, lying on the floor without a blanket while trying to avoid shattered glass on the floor of his cell. Because he hadn't been receiving his medicine for depression and anxiety, he suffered through an agonizing withdrawal. At night, he'd hear inmates who weren't receiving their prescribed drugs bang noisily on their cells in protest. --Matt Pulle

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