TMCNet:  Department weighing video option in jail

[July 13, 2012]

Department weighing video option in jail

Jul 13, 2012 (St. Joseph News-Press – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — The Buchanan County Sheriff's Department is considering installing interactive kiosks that would provide video visitation for inmates and their families.

The web-based kiosks wouldn't take place of in-person visitation, but would provide an option for inmates to video chat with their loved ones as opposed to speaking to them on the phone, said Sheriff Mike Strong.

"They can actually view their family, so they can do their visitation right from there," Mr. Strong said, adding that attorneys and parole officers could also use the application. "The nice thing about that is they can actually see their children, which we don't allow in the jail." The web-based kiosks would also provide a place for inmates to purchase snacks or download music using their commissary accounts.

While still in its infancy planning stages, Mr. Strong said the county is looking at companies that would install and maintain the kiosks for free, while taking a certain percentage of the monthly profits. Profits are made by charging inmates or their families for the video function, which already occurs when they make phone calls.

The rest of the funds made from each call and commissary purchase would be directed toward upkeep and maintenance expenses in the jail, Mr. Strong said.

"We're just exploring other means of developing income and providing better services at no cost to us," he said.

Currently the department is in talks with different companies, but Mr. Strong said the county isn't "even close" to making a decision regarding the kiosks.

They hope to ultimately decide whether or not to install the machines by the beginning of next year.

"We're not going to rush into it, we're going to do some more research first," Mr. Strong said. "We're still trying to get feedback from some people on it." Kim Norvell can be reached at k[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @KimNorvell.

___ (c)2012 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) Visit the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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