JACKSON — When Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr heard about some middle school students broadcasting the inmate list on cellphones to bully a classmate whose mother was in jail, he no longer had to mull whether the online jail log was a helpful tool or a form of public shaming.
“Hearing that story and how it affected that young lady was the driving factor for me,” Carr told the News&Guide. “It is going away.”
For months Carr has been considering doing away with the 16-year-old inmate list.
In early July the county’s most popular webpage will disappear. But there will still be an inmate locator tool, Carr said.
“It will be a searchable function,” he said. “When you go to the inmate list a search engine will pop up, and if you put in a name or date of birth you will be taken to the information regarding that inmate.”
Carr believes it’s the best compromise, since mug shots and arrest information are public record.
“I know there is some value to it, and everyone will still have access to that information,” he said. “And if it’s a serious public safety issue we will use other ways to get that information out.”
Feedback from Carr’s own employees “was pretty split,” he said. “But I can’t get away from the fact that it’s a little bit of a public shaming forum in a small community that I care a whole lot about.”
The inmate list displays mug shots and charges alongside an inmate’s arrest date, name, age and hometown. Mug shots are displayed only for inmates who are in custody. Photos are removed from the website when an inmate is released from jail. The page has 2,500 unique visitors each day on average, Teton County Sheriff’s Office IT Manager Marvin Arriola said.
According to research done internally at the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, only six of Wyoming’s 23 counties — including Park and Big Horn — have online lists of inmates.
Carr said the Teton County residents who want the inmate list to stay haven’t been shy to share their feedback. But the same goes for those who want it gone.
“The two ends of the spectrum are very vocal,” he said. “But I just can’t justify having it anymore.”