PINE BLUFF, Arkansas — Jefferson County has become the third county in Arkansas to implement video-based visitation for county jail inmates.
The Jefferson County program, called HomeWAV, is similar to webcam-based programs like Skype. However, HomeWAV charges 50 cents for each minute an inmate is logged on, and officials use that money to pay for the program.
Yhe video-visit program is now in place in Jefferson, Miller and White counties. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1hRTF54) Monday. In Jefferson County, the visitation program is set up in day rooms for the inmates. The rooms include a telephone handset, keypad, webcam, personal computer and video monitor.
Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson called the system the “wave of the future for correctional facility communication.”
“Visiting a loved one in an institutional environment, with the inherent security requirements, can be an unpleasant experience for anyone, especially children,” Robinson said. “With this new system, family members are spared the expense, inconvenience and emotional distress of coming into the jail to visit.”
Many counties used video-based programs for court appearances but few have implemented webcams for inmate visitation. It is not in place in state-run prisons, the Arkansas Department of Correction said.
In Miller County, jail warden Marty Brazell called webcam visitations “lifesavers for family members,” especially those who live far from the jail.
“We have lots of people who drive here from Dallas, and two or three times a year from California,” Brazell said. “It costs them a fortune to drive here, get a hotel, and eat and such. With this, they can just spend $20 and have a nice visit with their loved one.”
Though the program has been running just a few months, Brazell said, it’s growing in popularity with inmates.
“They are very happy with it, and we’ve seen a boost in their morale because of it,” Brazell said.