PIctured: Capt. Rene Gonzalez with the jail division demonstrates "the pipe" that keeps track of every inmates day-to-day routine from security checks to when they received their meals. The new system cost the sheriff's department $7,000. Photo by OFELIA GARCIA HUNTER

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

Correctional officers at the Jim Wells County jail are the first in the Coastal Bend to utilize a tool to keep track of inmates' routine that would eventually eliminate paperwork, county officials said.

"We used commissary's money to buy this for the protection of the inmates, correctional officers and everybody that's involved with the inmates," Jim Wells County Sheriff Oscar Lopez said.

The six-inch baton-like instrument called "the pipe" stores data as jail officials make their rounds during security checks and other day-to-day routine procedures. The officer waves it in front of a chip that is installed in every inmate's cell and the pipe loads the exact time and place to keep track of each inmate. The date is downloaded to a computer that registers every move of each inmate from recreation time to when they received their meals.

The department purchased two pipes, the computer system—Guard 1Plus and 18 chips for each officer who works with inmates for $7,000. The jail started using the system on Dec. 13.

"You can use it to magistrate, making security checks, visitations and all that gets downloaded into the computer," said jail administrator Sgt. Sandra Salas.

Capt. Rene Gonzalez with the jail division said logging in the information manually could be a thing of the past because the system will have all the details of each inmate on computer that can be printed out.

"We are going from paper logs to computerized data," he said. "Everything is stored in the computer."

With a click of a mouse, Gonzalez and other jail officials can have any of the 62 inmates' information currently in jail at their fingertips and their whereabouts at any time.

Gonzalez said the chips would have to be replaced with normal wear, but the pipe has a lifetime warranty. He said that a facility in Jourdanton has used the same tool with success.

"This is very reliable and other facilities have used it," Gonzalez said.