‘Facetime’ system proposed for jail

Published 2:26 am Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sheriff: Technology allows visits without danger to personnel

Inmates in the Covington County jail may soon be able to face time with family members from kiosks in the jail if the Covington County Commission OKs the installation of new technology.

Covington County sheriff Blake Turman introduced the technology at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

“What this is, is a system that can be set up in each individual block of the jail,” Turman said. “Right now, we have certain days of the week for visitation, and with our man power and what we have in the jail, it is quite a feat to make sure that everybody gets a chance to see their family members. When you’re in jail, your family members are in jail as well. It doesn’t matter what you have done, everyone in there has a mother or a father and they want to see their kids.”

The system is set up to go into the cells and is like a closed monitored system, Turman said.

“The inmates will be able to stand there in front of the screen,” Turman said. “Their family members will be able to see them and they can see their family, but there won’t be any movement from the cell blocks to the visitation area. What this offers is a little more safety for our officers and a little more of a convenience for our inmates that are in there.”

Turman said that it wouldn’t cost the county or the department a penny.

“The only people that would be spending money is the manufacturer of the system and the inmates using the equipment,” Turman said. “It will be just like a phone call, where they will have to pay for it and it will come out of their pocket. This will also offer an opportunity for family members of inmates that can’t come to Covington County.”

He said the department recently had to accommodate an elderly woman on oxygen to get her to the visitation area.

“She was on oxygen and I had to bring her here and make her go through everything just to get to the visitation area and it was quite the ordeal,” Turman said. “This type of system could alleviate some of those problems. I have looked into this system and think it is a good idea. I think it is a good idea for our county, a good thing for keeping our officers safe and it could keep people in communication with their family.”

Combined Public Communications, which already provides telecommunications for the jail, is offering the technology.

“What we are offering is video presentation system,” Greg Bartlett of Combined Public Communications said. “Inmates can visit from inside of the jail and family members can visit either by coming up to the jail or visit from home. The inmate would pay for the cost or if the family member would like to visit from outside of the jail, they would be responsible for the cost.”

Bartlett said that with this technology, family members will be able to communicate with the inmate wherever there is internet service.

“As long as they have internet service they can communicate with them wherever,” Bartlett said. “They can have their iPad in McDonalds and talk to their family members in the jail if they want to. The image won’t have any actual cost. The machines would actually be a total estimate of $70,000, but you guys don’t pay that, we will. That is why we are asking for an extension of our contract, so we will be able to recoup our money. So when the time comes when we have to renew, we hope that you will stay with us.”

The sheriff’s department will be able to control all access to the kiosks that will be stationed in each block of the jail and the department will actually be able to extend the visitation hours because of the technology.

“Right now it is only a couple days a week,” Bartlett said. “With this technology you could extend that to five days a week because you won’t be having to move inmates back and forth. The sheriff’s department will be able to set up when the inmates are allowed to use the kiosk for a visit. The family member will be able to initiate the call and then the inmate will have to use an I.D. and pin number to be able to answer the call. They will use the same I.D. and pin number to login and see if they have a visit and the visits will be set for however long the sheriff decides, so they can’t sit on the kiosk forever.”

The commission took no action on the proposal.

The commission also:

• Agreed to seek bids for an herbicide truck and asphalt.

• Increased the board seats for the Recreation Board from four to seven.

• Reappointed Nancy Robins to the Organized Community Action Program.

• Reappointed two members to the Covington County Industrial Development Authority Board.

• Approved county levies for alcohol licensing.

• Approved a club liquor license for American Legion Post 157.