The Joint Automated Booking System

Audit Report 05-22
May 2005
Office of the Inspector General

Executive Summary

The Joint Automated Booking System (JABS) is a computer system that helps federal law enforcement agencies book, identify, and share information quickly about persons in federal custody. The U.S. Department of Justice (Department) developed JABS to support its law enforcement components.

The purpose of our audit was to assess the extent to which the JABS program was meeting its stated goals, and to assess the status of implementation of JABS. Our audit focused on efforts to implement JABS from the time component representatives formally signed onto the project in May 1999 through November 2004.

Currently the JABS program partially meets its stated goals and has been implemented widely, but improvements are needed. The program has automated the booking process in the Department's law enforcement components and provided an automated interface with the FBI's fingerprint system, ensuring the rapid and positive identification of offenders at sites where it is deployed. Automation has also streamlined part of the booking process by reducing the number of times fingerprints are captured within an agency. Basic data sharing between components has been provided, with components sharing one another's offender data by viewing and printing information from the central JABS repository. However, we found that the system does not reduce booking steps through data sharing as envisioned, resulting in component redundancy and duplication of effort. We also found that the offender tracking system was incomplete, reducing the agencies' ability to track offenders. By the end of November 2004, the JABS program had been implemented in over 840 Department locations, or about 77 percent of the sites requested by the Department's law enforcement components, but is not yet sufficiently implemented to be used for all Department arrests.


The Department's law enforcement components book offenders by collecting fingerprints and photographs, and by recording information about the arrest and charges, the person's identity, address, physical description, and other information, all of which are commonly referred to as biographical data. A single arrest may involve as many as three distinct bookings, during which the arresting agency, then the United States Marshals Service (USMS), which detains the offender, and then the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) which incarcerates the offender, may capture photographs, fingerprints, and biographical data about the same offender.

Prior to implementation of JABS, booking data were captured on paper and in systems accessible by only one agency, making it difficult to share information among federal law enforcement components. In components without a data system for recording bookings, storing, managing, and retrieving such information was inefficient. For example, information sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for identification purposes was sent by mail on hard-copy forms, and the response from the FBI could take several weeks.

Recognizing the labor intensive and redundant nature of the booking process, the Department established the Joint Automated Booking Station Pilot Project in 1993 to study the feasibility of automating the booking process and sharing data between Department components. The Pilot Project, which began operating in February 1996, consisted of eight sites in the Southern District of Florida.

The Pilot Project (completed in 1999) demonstrated that automated bookings saved time, agencies could re-use data originated by another agency, electronic fingerprints could be submitted to the FBI, and a set of common data elements could be used by the participating agencies. Based on the success of the Pilot Project, the Department decided in 1999 to seek nationwide implementation of JABS.

The nationwide JABS is composed of two components: the Core JABS and the participating agencies' Automated Booking Systems (ABS). The Core JABS is the central processing component of the system that communicates with participating agencies and stores booking data that can be queried by users. The Core JABS also validates and manages transactions to and from the FBI's fingerprint system, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Information System (IAFIS). Each participating agency has its own ABS that collects fingerprints, photographs, and other information about the arrest and the offender, assesses the quality of fingerprints to be sent to the FBI, and transmits and receives information to and from the Core JABS. The Query Tool, which is part of the Core JABS, provides access for users to search the central data repository and generate standard reports.

With the ABS, law enforcement officers use automated booking stations to capture fingerprints and photographs in digital form. These fingerprints and photographs, along with arrest and personal information, are formatted and transmitted electronically through the central JABS server to IAFIS. IAFIS matches JABS data against FBI information to positively identify offenders and responds to the submitting officers, through JABS, with identifying information about the person. The information stored in the national JABS database is available using a web browser for querying, viewing, and downloading by authorized JABS users in participating agencies.

All of the Department's law enforcement components participate in JABS as booking agents. A few users in other Department components have query-only access to search the central JABS database.

In addition, federal law enforcement agencies outside the Department are permitted to become JABS users. As of September 2004, these included the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Army Military Police, and the National Institutes of Health Police. With the exception of the DHS, these other agencies perform very small numbers of transactions.

Funding for JABS has been provided from congressional appropriations, the Department's Working Capital Fund, and the Asset Forfeiture Fund. Total funding for the nationwide project for fiscal years (FYs) 1999 through 2004 was $82.7 million.

Accomplishment of Goals

The JABS goals and mission as stated in 1999 were to: 1) automate the booking process; 2) enable each law enforcement organization to share and exchange data between users; and 3) establish an offender tracking system. These goals were to have the effect of ensuring the rapid positive identification of offenders, streamlining the booking process, reducing redundant booking steps between components, aiding in criminal investigations, and enabling law enforcement organizations to track offenders through disposition.

Automating the Booking Process

To automate this process, the JABS program needs to deliver the capability for each Department law enforcement component to: 1) electronically record standardized booking data, including digitized fingerprints and photographs; 2) transmit usable data to IAFIS securely for identification, and 3) receive responses from IAFIS quickly. The JABS Program Management Office projected that achieving these three objectives would result in decreased fingerprint transmittal time to IAFIS, decreased rejection rates for fingerprint sets submitted to the FBI, and a streamlined booking process that would reuse information that has been entered once.

We found that the JABS program has successfully implemented, in each Department law enforcement component and the DHS, a system to book offenders electronically, send fingerprints to the FBI for identification, and receive responses from the FBI quickly. The JABS program also has developed the Core JABS to validate, package, and transmit data to and from the FBI's IAFIS and to store booking data.

Where deployed, JABS has resulted in significantly decreased transmittal time for fingerprints to the FBI, which, in turn, provides a response to JABS within hours rather than weeks. Fingerprint sets sent to the FBI through JABS have a slightly lower rejection rate than all criminal hard-copy sets submitted, and additional improvements may be possible from future technology advances. The booking process has been streamlined to some extent because users can take a person's fingerprints once and print out as many hard-copy cards as needed. Yet, the booking process streamlining has not been fully achieved. Many arresting officers still manually complete hard-copy forms that are brought to the USMS with an offender and that contain information that has already been recorded in the automated booking station.

Sharing and Exchanging Booking Information

JABS was also intended to: 1) support booking automation through data sharing, thereby reducing or eliminating redundant booking steps, data, and data entry; and 2) aid in criminal investigations. The Pilot Project had shown that previously recorded information about an offender and the arrest could be made available to multiple agencies to use for subsequent bookings and inquiries. The JABS program established performance measures to evaluate the success of reducing redundant steps and aiding in investigations. These measures involved a decrease of 50 percent in the time it takes to perform a subsequent booking and decreased time to identify existing federal booking information.

To reduce or eliminate booking steps and data, booking information would be entered by the arresting agency once, after which the second or third-tier agencies would access the common booking data and append or update the record with additional information as needed, including the disposition of the offender. This has not been achieved. The cycle time for subsequent bookings has not been decreased through data sharing, as envisioned in the Pilot Project and nationwide JABS planning documents. During our audit, we found that inefficiencies between agencies that existed prior to the Pilot Project in 1996 continued to exist. The USMS and BOP still re-enter information that already exists in the Core JABS database.

To aid in criminal investigations, the automated information should be made accessible to users who are involved in investigations. This has been achieved through implementation of the JABS Query Tool, resulting in a decrease in the time it takes to identify existing booking information for offenders currently found in the database. However, not all planned functions of the Query Tool that would assist investigators have been implemented. Specifically, the Query Tool does not allow fingerprints to be viewed or printed and does not yet provide an electronic line-up capability.

Establishing an Offender Tracking System

The goal to establish an offender tracking system is not fully described in JABS program documents, and no objectives defining exactly who should be placed in the database have been established. The JABS Program Management Office told us that it had not focused on this goal yet because the priority after September 11, 2001 had been to deploy rapidly the booking stations. The Acting Program Manager told us that no work has been scheduled yet regarding the offender tracking system but that work will be completed at some future, but as yet unspecified, time.

An effective tracking system for federal offenders would require a complete database, meaning that all records should be included that meet some definition of completeness, that is, users should know who they can expect to find in the database. An effective tracking system would also require that information found in the records should be accurate enough so that law enforcement users can identify an offender's status and location. JABS program documents specify functions related to tracking the status of an individual within the federal judicial system, so that an authorized user would be able to locate persons and determine their status and the disposition of their case. Such functions include requirements to store:

  • the location where the offender is serving the sentence and the date of arrival at the facility;

  • the disposition of each case and the date that the sentence is due to expire; and

  • a history of changes to an offender's location.

We found that the JABS program has begun to establish the tracking system by creating the database and establishing the above requirements, but that not all Department arrests are being recorded through JABS. We also found that the case disposition and history of changes to an offender's location had not been implemented. The location where the offender is serving the sentence and date of arrival are being recorded only for the initial commitment to BOP facilities. If an offender is moved to a different facility, the new location is not being recorded. Additionally, changes are made to the JABS database only when a user takes voluntary action to send the change.

Goals and Objectives Summary

During our audit, the JABS program partially met its objectives for Department law enforcement users. The JABS program has automated the booking process for Department components and provided an automated interface with IAFIS at deployed locations, thereby ensuring the rapid and positive identification of offenders at deployed locations. JABS reduced the time needed to submit information to IAFIS, and the IAFIS response time has been cut back from weeks to hours, or even less time, at deployed locations. JABS has also reduced some redundant steps within agencies, such as fingerprinting a person only once in each component, but some users still complete hard-copy forms manually that duplicate information that has been entered into the ABS.

JABS has also enabled users to share information by viewing and printing information created by other components. However, the program has not yet resulted in data sharing capabilities that would allow components to eliminate redundant steps or data entry between components. Both the USMS and the BOP re-enter data on offenders that has already been entered in JABS by other participating agencies. The system is also supposed to allow users to create electronic mug shot line-ups and view and print fingerprints; however, these functions were not available during our audit.

The JABS program has begun establishing the offender tracking system, but this function has not been fully planned and the Core JABS data repository does not reflect all data needed for tracking offenders through disposition. Not all current arrests by the Department are being recorded through JABS, so the information is incomplete, and no goals have been established defining who should be included in the database. Additionally, corrections or updates to information contained in the repository are not necessarily updated in JABS.

Extent of Deployment

The performance measure related to deploying JABS was to establish 100-percent connectivity to components' automated booking systems. Program officials told us that this performance measure is interpreted to mean that JABS is capable of transmitting and processing bookings with each component's automated booking system, even if only one station is deployed in a component. This connectivity has been achieved.

Priority for Deployment After September 11, 2001

JABS program officials told us that priorities for the program shifted after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, when only the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) automated booking capability was linked to JABS. Resources were diverted away from reducing duplication and making other improvements to the Core JABS to implementing JABS at additional components and deploying JABS workstations. The objective was to give law enforcement quick access to the FBI's IAFIS. Other aspects of the JABS mission were postponed until the number of JABS workstations requested could be fulfilled.

Status of Deployment

As of November 2004, the JABS program had provided automated booking capabilities to all of the Department's law enforcement components, and to 841 Department locations, or about 77 percent of the requested booking locations. The implementation began with an early version of the system at the DEA in July 2000, followed by the USMS and FBI in August 2002, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which started a pilot office in December 2003. The last Department component to begin JABS operations was the BOP in April 2004, but all of its locations had been equipped with JABS stations in the summer of 2002. All locations that have been requested as of November 2004 by the DEA have been linked to JABS. The following table shows the status of deployment in each component.

Comparison of the Number of Deployed Sites to the
Number of Sites Requested by the Department Components
November 2004

Participating Component Number of Sites Requested by Components Number of Deployed Sites Percentage of Deployed Sites to Requested Number of Sites
ATF 146 37 25%
BOP 139 120 86%
DEA 285 285 100%
FBI 235 235 100%
USMS 285 164 58%
DOJ Totals 1,090 841 77%
Source: Joint Automated Booking System Program Management Office

However, JABS has not been sufficiently deployed to ensure that all Department arrests are booked through JABS or submitted electronically to IAFIS. Based on the number of arrests reported to us by components, the percentages of arrests that had been booked through JABS for the DEA, FBI, and USMS through July 2004 are shown in the following table.

Percentage of Component Arrests Booked in JABS
FY 2002 Through July 31, 2004

Fiscal Year DEA FBI USMS
2002 13% <1% 3%
2003 30% 24% 96%
2004 44% 47% 90%
Source: Joint Automated Booking System Program Management Office

There are no specific objectives establishing that all persons, or which specific persons, who are detained or arrested by the Department's law enforcement components should be booked through JABS. JABS program officials told us that there are no goals to make the system available for all Department bookings and that the Department does not require bookings to be recorded in JABS, even at deployed locations.

JABS was also implemented beginning in September 2002 at the then - Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) as part of its efforts to make FBI fingerprint data available to immigration and border officials. The system had been deployed to 121 locations by the time the INS became part of the DHS in March 2003.

The JABS program will provide services to any federal agency that is required to submit fingerprints to the FBI. The only organization outside the Department that uses JABS for a significant number of bookings is the DHS. The National Institutes of Health Police and offices of the U.S. Army Police have also connected to JABS to submit bookings. Several additional agencies have expressed interest, and JABS program officials are in discussions with them. A handful of Department and other organizations, such as the Federal Protective Service and the Postal Inspection Service, are connected to the JABS Query Tool for purposes of accessing information only, not to perform bookings.

Delayed Deployment at the BOP

We identified a nearly two-year delay in implementing the system at the BOP after all the requested equipment had been installed. All of the 240 workstations that were requested by the BOP were installed between June and August 2002. However, the BOP only began submitting JABS transactions successfully in the spring of 2004, nearly two years after installation. In addition to losing the use of those workstations and the additional records that would have been created in the JABS database, the BOP ABS software had to be redesigned, and the JABS program paid the contractor for two design and development efforts. We calculate the unnecessary costs of the delayed deployment to be $88,082.

JABS program and BOP officials told us that the software resulting from the initial design and development work done on behalf of the BOP had major problems that were not discovered until after the program had deployed all 240 workstations to the BOP's requested sites. The Acting Program Manager told us that the problem occurred for two reasons: 1) the Program Management Office did not perform oversight to a sufficiently detailed level to identify this problem during the software development stage, and 2) the contractor did not follow the processes described in its quality assurance plan.

Future Expansion

The JABS program plans for expansion through FY 2006 include deploying additional workstations to the ATF, DEA, and USMS, and linking with the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the U.S. District Courts, and possibly the Secret Service. The total deployment projected for the ATF through FY 2006 will not fulfill the current request for booking stations. The program also plans to convert the USMS automated booking system to the web-based version of JABS by September 2005. The total projected costs for FY 2005 were $20.3 million to cover all planned activity.

Neither the components nor the JABS program could provide documentation to support the number of sites that represent an optimal number of booking stations for the Department. We attempted to determine an approximate universe of possible sites in the Department's law enforcement organizations that could use a JABS station, absent any funding, logistical, or operational constraints.

Based on our assessment and with the exception of the ATF, the number of sites that have been requested by the components are within range of meeting what would be full deployment of JABS for the Department, even if defined broadly to include JABS stations in virtually all offices where offenders are booked.

During 2004 the JABS program also implemented the capability for the USMS to book offenders on behalf of other agencies. This capability could be used to ensure that virtually all Department arrests, and other federal arrests, are booked through JABS and transmitted to the FBI's IAFIS electronically for a quick identification response, but this potential has not yet been realized.

Deployment Summary

By the end of November 2004, the JABS program had successfully deployed automated booking capabilities to about 840 Department sites, or about 77 percent of the requested booking locations. JABS stations had also been deployed to other law enforcement organizations, primarily the DHS, but also the National Institutes of Health Police and the U.S. Army Police. The wide deployment, however, does not ensure that all Department arrests are recorded in JABS, and the JABS program has no stated objectives related to which persons should be booked through JABS.


At the time of our audit, the JABS program had partially met its stated objectives by: 1) automating the booking process for Department components, including providing an automated interface with IAFIS that ensures the rapid and positive identification of offenders at deployed locations; 2) enabling users to share information by viewing and printing information created by other components; and 3) beginning to establish an offender tracking system.

However, the JABS program had not yet:

  • resulted in data sharing capabilities that would allow components to reduce or eliminate redundant steps or data entry between components,

  • completed implementing the data elements that would enable users to track offenders through disposition,

  • ensured that information in JABS is updated to reflect the most accurate information available electronically,

  • provided its planned electronic line-up capabilities, and

  • resolved problems with the printing of fingerprints from the database.

Additionally, JABS had been deployed widely, but does not ensure that all Department arrests are recorded in JABS and transmitted electronically to IAFIS. The program had implemented interagency booking capabilities at the USMS that could be used to ensure that all Department arrests are recorded in JABS, but the potential of this capability had not yet been realized.


Our report contains six recommendations to complete JABS stated goals and to ensure that all Department arrests are included in JABS. Those recommendations are for the Justice Management Division to:

  • Develop, document, and implement a plan to complete or revise the project goals to share and exchange information in ways that reduce redundant steps between components, and to establish the offender tracking system.

  • Coordinate with the USMS regarding the need to deploy JABS to all USMS sites taking custody of federal arrestees.

  • Require that all federal offenders arrested by Department components be booked through JABS.

  • Work with the FBI to ensure that the ABS fingerprint quality screening procedures are enhanced to more closely mirror the FBI's procedures when the non-proprietary quality control standard is released.

  • Develop a plan for future expansion of JABS. The plan should take into account interagency booking capabilities at the USMS, provide a clear definition of the universe of offenders to be included in JABS, and focus resources to optimize future expansion.

  • Establish and implement oversight procedures to ensure that contractors comply with their quality assurance plans.

Previous Page Back to Table of Contents Next Page