Law enforcement and government leaders gathered Friday to discuss a new system being used at the Fayette County jail to help identify inmates and obtain their immigration status.
Lexington police Chief Ronnie Bastin said the system, which matches fingerprints of those being booked at the Fayette County jail against databases maintained by the Kentucky State Police, Department of Homeland Security and FBI, will not change the way officers do their jobs.
Mayor Jim Newberry said the system treats everyone equally.
"It is a tool that we will use to help ensure the safety of our community," Newberry said.
During the booking process at the jail, an inmate's fingerprints are scanned into a computer. Within minutes, depending on the quality of the prints, Kentucky State Police sends the jail information in what looks like an e-mail.
The state police's response lists the inmate's name and criminal history if that person is in the state database. That information is then sent to federal officials for review. Federal officials then send the jail the inmate's immigration status.
The system is part of the Secure Communities initiative, a collaboration "by federal, state and local agencies to modernize the criminal alien enforcement process," according to a news release from the mayor's office.
Lexington is the first city in Kentucky to use the new system. About 660 jurisdictions already have it.
On Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she wanted every jurisdiction to have the program by 2013.
Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt said people being booked at the jail often give false names, which could cause them to be released too soon.
The new program will provide jail officials with more details about an inmate's criminal history.