Dallas County Settles Jail Stay Lawsuits

Dallas County Jail | Image by WFAA
Dallas County Jail | Image by WFAA

Dallas County recently paid $160,000 in settlements to two individuals who were wrongfully detained long after their release dates.

Chris McDowell, who was in jail because of a probation violation, found himself in jail for over 50 days beyond his mandated release date, reported KERA News. McDowell’s attorney, Dean Malone, contends that faulty software contributed to his client’s extended detention.

“The County’s longstanding flawed process for timely releasing inmates was exacerbated by technological issues as early as May 2023, when the County began migrating case files from the County’s 40-year-old Forvis criminal case management software system … to Tyler Technologies’ Odyssey criminal case management software system,” Malone wrote in a lawsuit, per KERA.

McDowell lost his job and his truck as a result of the mishap.

Despite a federal lawsuit alleging systemic failures, Dallas County has not officially acknowledged any wrongdoing but opted to settle with McDowell for $100,000, which Malone claimed “speaks volumes.”

The transition to the new Odyssey software system, which was approved by Dallas County commissioners over a year ago, has been fraught with challenges, as reported by The Dallas Express.

The county has spent over $1 million in taxpayer money thus far to resolve the IT challenges created by the new software, according to KERA. The county has also allocated additional resources to address the backlog of cases resulting from software glitches and has demanded Tyler Technologies be held accountable.

Dallas County also agreed to pay Ryan Harris $60,000 after he was detained for months beyond his scheduled release, per KERA. Harris’ attorney, Jim Spangler, attributed the mishap to administrative failures within the sheriff’s department. Harris had completed his sentence in February 2023 but was not released until May.

“In Ryan Harris’ case, it was very much the sheriff’s fault,” Spangler claimed, per KERA. “Not all issues involving release are the sheriff’s fault. It was 100% the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department in this case.”

“People make mistakes. I know I’m busy. I forget to do stuff sometimes, right? That all happens,” Spangler added. “But the fact that they have a system where someone can overlook something and … he could still be in jail. This whole thing is all extremely concerning.”

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