Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thugs - Mugs

Wouldn't it be nice if you could access a public website, free of charge, and be able to pull up mugshots of people who had been arrested in Shelby County? Well, you can do that - if they are still in jail. The Sheriff's Office owns the website for shelbycountyjail.com and the jail and the cameras,etc that are used to take mugshots. They also own the server that stores those pictures, but they don't open those up to anyone but the media. Hmmm, media - hey aren't bloggers considered media?

When I first developed the jail website, it was done to fulfil the order of a Federal Court Judge. We didn't think much about exposing the mugshots, but I think that time has come. Hopefully, the SCSO will listen to requests from voters, er I mean taxpayers, and open that data for free, public consumption. If you agree with this notion, why not send a friendly email to the SCSO requesting they give the public free access to the mugshots? You can also call them 901-545-5532 or 901-545-5686 and ask for Steve Shular. Steve is the media relations guy and I think he will understand the request better than anyone else at the SCSO. He's a good guy, and he does a great job, but I doubt that he's really given much thought to this issue. Why not give him the opportunity to help us out?

This is not a new issue for me, as I've asked that this information be made public in the past, and the request was denied. However, since the information is public, I decided about a year and a half ago, to start capturing the mugshots - programmatically. Today, I've got over 20,000 pictures on my server that I will soon make available to the public. It only makes sense to make public information available because the best government is a transparent government.

The SCSO can go one of three ways on this. They can ignore the request, deny the request or open up the data. Hopefully, they will write a simple webpage that allows searching by name, booking number and rni number. I'll give them a sample they can use as a design template when I post mine.

Keep looking for the free mugshots over the next week or so.


Anonymous said...

I think you're on the right track here. I'm not sure our public records law is modernized enough to force the issue, but perhaps they'll do it with enough demand.

John Harvey said...

I just think since the photos are public information, and offered up to the public, while a person is in jail, the pictures should be available any time thereafter.

Part of our problem here in Memphis, is we make it too hard to get information that is supposed to be public. Personally, I think we should have a government webpage that lets you search by name, booking number, rni number, etc and then you should be able to see mugshots, arrest tickets, and all court dispositions.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the quaint notion that people are innocent until proven guilty? What becomes of the person who is arrested, has his mug shot posted all over creation, and then is found not to be guilty?

John Harvey said...

It's still a notion, but here in the real world, thugs abound. In those rare instances that someone who is innocent gets arrested, they can get their record expunged. Otherwise, the information is public and should be freely available. IT could also be impetus for staying out of jail. What ever happend to the notion of "shame?" People aren't ashamed of anything anymore and therefore, we have what we have - a shameless society where anything goes! Of course, that is just my humble opinion, and it carries no more weight than yours!

logo mugs said...

I think you're on the right track here. I'm not sure our public records law is modernized enough to force the issue,