FORT LAUDERDALE — Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti has acknowledged that hundreds of inmates breached a jailhouse computer network and stole thousands of dollars in the process.
In a letter to county officials, Lamberti said 507 current and former inmates have manipulated the system and avoided paying the $8 a day subsistence fee the county charges inmates. The theft amounted to $8,226.69, of which $3,671.82 has been recovered so far.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said it was a security-related matter and declined comment. However, Lamberti informed Broward County officials of the incident in a letter last week. Mayor Sue Gunzberger and other county officials requested the explanation following a report in the South Florida Times’ Sept. 29 edition.
Computer kiosks were installed inside county jail cells to allow inmates to order supplies from the jail commissary, file grievances, and monitor funds deposited into their accounts. Hundreds of inmates found a way to manipulate the system to avoid various fees from being deducted from their accounts. They also found a way to use the system to engage in prohibited communication with one another.
“During the early stages of kiosk system implementation, Detention Resource Management staff had indentified sporadic, isolated cases of Inmate Subsistence fees not being assessed appropriately,” Lamberti wrote to Broward County officials in a letter dated Oct. 12.
Lamberti also told county officials that use of the kiosks streamlined operations, allowing him to “eliminate four staff positions” that used to perform those tasks.
BSO’s Department of Detention conducted an internal investigation into the security breach. Lamberti wrote that the “primary system was never taken offline; however we did restrict inmate access in an exempt category of items for a short period of time.”
Lamberti’s letter did not address the issue of inmates being able to communicate with one another. However, internal documents obtained by South Florida Times show one supervisor requested the network be taken offline and indicated the practice had “gone viral in the inmate population.” Another supervisor suggested the “whole system” be shut down based on the allegations alone.
Disciplinary reports were issued, but it remains unclear what consequences those inmates faced as a result of their activities. Some of the inmates told investigators they were not aware they were cheating the kiosk system.
“Please know that our staff has taken the necessary steps to insure [sic] the continued financial viability of the kiosk system, the security of our staff and visitors, and the general public,” Lamberti stated in his letter.
**Pictured above is Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti.