New jail phone system in works

ALBANY — The Dougherty County Commission’s Finance Committee voted unanimously Monday to take a budget amendment before the entire commission that would allow the jail to use a new automated phone service.

For roughly $2,000 per month, the service would automate all of the Jail’s basic information and services, including hours of operation and vital inmate information such as crime, bond amount and arresting agency.

The move would spare the deputies who work the lobby at the jail and some of the housing officers from the barrage of phone calls they get asking for routine information, jail administrator Col. John Ostrander said.

“They’re constantly on the phone giving out the public information that they are required to do, rather than monitor and secure the lobby and handle their other responsibilities,” Ostrander said.

The service does allow callers to punch through to an operator if they have trouble finding the information they’re searching for, but Ostrander told commissioners that he expects the vast majority of the public’s questions to be answered through the system.

If approved by the full commission, the system would be implemented and operational by January.

The system could be funded through a variety of ways, Ostrander said. The county could use a $100,000 signing bonus it got to renew its phone contract to fund the system for a number of years, Ostrander said, or funding could come from reduction of a vacant staff position.