By The Garden City Telegram
Businesses trying to stay viable can’t always cut expenses. They also must pursue innovative ways to boost income.
The same goes for governments. Count one recent move in Finney County as a good way to land more revenue while addressing a lingering issue surrounding jail visitation.
At the Finney County Jail, growth from a 55-bed to 220-bed facility ate up space for kiosks used to give jail visitors an opportunity to visit with inmates via an in-house video system. Even before the jail grew and consumed that space, the limited area for visitors had the lobby packed and difficult for staff to handle.
A sensible solution came recently in a new jail video visitation system that enables friends and relatives to connect with inmates from anywhere if they have a webcam-equipped computer and Internet connection — for a fee. The Internet-based visits cost 50 cents a minute or $10 for a 20-minute visit, the maximum time allowed for a single visit.
As part of a deal with the company that provides the service, 40 percent of the proceeds go to Finney County — welcome at a time governments must generate new income that helps defray costs for the services citizens expect.
Future plans for the new video system include a smartphone application so jail visits could occur practically anywhere. For example, inmates could be part of a virtual, interactive day at the park or other family event.
Anyone who doesn’t own a home computer still may log in at the jail, as the county maintained four visitation kiosks to provide systems for public use.
Of course, paying to visit an inmate may seem a burden to some people, especially at a time of tight household budgets. But at least people who live out of town won’t have the expense of travel for a visit.
It is beneficial for prisoners to maintain contact with family and friends who would serve as a network of support once they’re released.
For those who still can’t afford to reach out to inmates through the new system, there’s always the traditional, tried-and-true way to correspond: Write a letter.