Rio Grande County Sheriff receives approval for fingerprint station


RIO GRANDE COUNTY — The Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Office has been in discussion with Rio Grande County Commissioners for a month regarding the purchase of a new fingerprint and photo station to be installed in the Rio Grande County Jail. During the meeting on Wednesday, July 29, the board approved the purchase of the new AFIS station.

According to Sheriff Don McDonald, the original system appears to have been installed in 2004 when the new addition was completed. This system is a direct connect for all fingerprinting to Colorado Bureau of Investigation and is a required system for Concealed Carry applications and inmate processing and identification.

The present system, according to McDonald, is not FBI certified and to be certified needs to be upgraded. At present the fingerprint portion of the system is not always recognizing the latent prints of an individual and this is causing numerous errors. The photographic side will not download the photo into the fingerprint file and then at times will lock the system and a reset has to accomplished causing a loss of data.

“With the older system in place, civilian and jail personnel are together too long and giving possible exposure to COVID-19 and other medical issues in the jail area,” McDonald said.

The new device will benefit, not only for the jail and sheriff’s department but the community as well, according to McDonald. Some employers require fingerprinting to be completed as part of the hiring process as well as other organizations prior to employment.

“I am pretty sure this will be the only AFIS we have here in the Valley as far as I am aware, and it will be a huge benefit for a lot of people,” McDonald said.

McDonald has also been in conversations with the board about installing a new mental health room in the jail. Earlier this year, the sheriff stated that they one inmate had a mental breakdown and the consequences have been expensive.

“Beginning in January 2021, the jail had to hold an inmate that had mental/behavior health issues,” McDonald said. “During the time that he was held here, he damaged areas of the jail that requires some major costly repairs. Our jail does not have any facilities to hold any inmates that are having mental/behavior health issues. Thus, jeopardizing their safety and jail personnel safety and security.”

Commissioners are looking into the possibility that this mental health holding cell could potentially be paid for with money received through the COVID Relief Funding issued to the county earlier this year. The mental health holding cell could also be used as a quarantine room when necessary.

“The cost of one holding room setup for mental/behavior health inmates will be approximately $35,000,” McDonald said. “This includes the padding of one cell and the necessary toilet setup.”

Commissioners gave McDonald the approval to move forward with the purchase of the AFIS system and continue working toward installing a mental health holding cell in the jail.

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