Washington County Website Affects Students’ Reputations
by Logan Gilmore
The weekends are a time for relaxation, celebration and for some students, drinking alcohol. But when Sunday comes around and the hangovers are nearly gone, one website seems to remain at the top of many students’ bookmarks: the Washington County Detention Center Report.
Since the site’s creation several years ago, the online portion of the county’s inmate roster has become very popular, with more than one million hits in just one year. Jak Kimball, IT Manager with the Sheriff’s Department, said that it began “as a way to facilitate the media, to get the information to them.”
What was created as a hard copy to remain at the Sheriff’s office has transformed into a user-friendly, consistently updated website that allows anyone to see who is currently within the system. The Freedom of Information Act requires that the department provide access inmate information to whoever requests it. Kimball said that they are simply skipping a step and providing a simpler place for individuals to view the intake roster at any time without having to travel to the department.
This year, developer Mobile Patrol, LLC, worked with the department to create an iOS app that makes it even easier to view booked offenders, with plans for an Android app in the near future. Students, who remain at the top of the technological food chain, have quickly become accustomed to the website and app in order to find their classmates and friends.
“I hope that is never me on the site. Come Sunday, people would be looking at me. Everyone is scared of public ridicule,” said Jacquie Carroll, a UA sophomore majoring in Ad/PR. “It’s group mentality, I guess.”
With so many students checking the site to see who committed what offense over the weekend, several users among social media sites have begun to mock said students, seeing the entertainment value in the roster.
A group by the name of Cronic Nug Boyz created a series of YouTube videos entirely revolving around mug shots of students and residents of the Fayetteville area. Another account, under the pseudonym FaytownFuzz, has flooded Twitter with posts of students and others of the intake report in a satirical but more-or-less ridiculing manner, commenting on their age, facial expressions, Greek affiliation and other personal details. With nearly 1,700 followers, it is one of the UA campus’ top parody Twitter accounts.
One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained his experience in being listed on the county intake report, as well as how it has affected his decision making.
“People had my mug shot as the background on their phone. My parents, old teachers and current boss all saw it. I moved out of my dorm afterward, but haven’t stopped drinking,” he said. “However, I have become more careful and knowledgeable of my surroundings.”
When asked if this experience would stop students from committing crimes on campus, he said: “There is some added pressure to [the website] in keeping yourself in check, but suggesting that it is enough incentive to keep someone from breaking the law is overstating its power.”
“When you’re doing something that is going to get you arrested, you’re not thinking in the right mind anyway. Especially when it is involving drinking or drugs; it’s not something that will be going through your head before you start your car,” said Nathan Watson, a UA sophomore majoring in creative writing. “However, after the fact, no one wants to have the reputation of getting arrested over and over again, so it does kind of make you want to keep your reputation in check.”
While the right to privacy may seem violated when a student’s face is plastered on the website, these students lose that right when they commit a crime. DUIs and DWIs are a major occurrence among university students, but there are easy ways to avoid becoming the laughingstock of the campus community.
One way is to simply not drink and drive, however repetitious that message may sound. Not only will it prevent social ridicule, but it will prevent potentially deadly traffic accidents. Safe Ride, a service paid by student fees, will pick up a student from anywhere within city limits and take them home, just by calling 575-SAFE.
Kimball’s advice to students is to the point: “Don’t break the law.”
Whether that refers to underage drinking, driving while intoxicated, possession of controlled substances, or public intoxication, it is a simple rule that more students should follow — if not for their safety, at least for the sake of their reputation in college and the professional world to come.