Buchanan County Jail moves closer to video visitation system
Jan 01, 2013 (St. Joseph News-Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Talk of bringing video visitation to the Buchanan County Jail is coming closer to fruition.
According to Capt. Jody Hovey, jail administrator, a new way of connecting inmates to family, to important information and to commissary services could be in place as soon as early 2013.
"We're actually in the beginning stages," Hovey said. "We've agreed but we've still got to put it out to bid."
Hovey said the idea came from when he attended a jail administrator's conference in Columbia. There, he saw a vendor displaying kiosks that could be used for a variety of jail services and thought it could be useful in Buchanan County.
"It just was really impressive," he said. "We got back, set up a meeting and put on a demonstration with the Sheriff's Department."
The demonstration led to a greater interest from the department to move forward with obtaining the kiosks. He said they would serve a population that has averaged about 220 daily inmates in the course of 2012.
One service the kiosks would provide is to allow inmates to visit with their loved ones through video visitation, Mr. Hovey said.
"It's basically over the Internet, so family members can visit the prisoners via the Web, kind of like Skype," he said.
Mr. Hovey said that type of system would be helpful for inmates when it comes to seeing children under 18, who are not allowed in the jail, or relatives who can't visit in person.
"Say you have a family member who's out of town, or elderly or small children," he said. "They don't even have to leave the house."
Mr. Hovey said the addition of the service is exciting for a number of reasons, but particularly for the opportunity to transfer some jail processes from paper to pixels. In addition to the visitation capability, kiosks demonstrated by one vendor that has drawn the department's interest also allow inmates to process medical request and grievance forms electronically and place orders for commissary items.
The change would create a virtual paper trail and cut down on the manpower needed to process the forms, he said. There also is interest in making a law library available to inmates from the kiosks.
He said the cost involved with the system would be covered by whichever vendor the department chooses following the bidding process -- the vendor collects a portion of fees from the inmates' commissary purchases and visitations.
"It saves money, it saves manpower, it saves space," he said. "Everybody always gets on board when you're talking about savings."
Jessica Shumaker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPShumaker.
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