by Jason Pederson
LONOKE (KATV) — Technology has changed many of the things we do, and it’s starting to change the way people in jail stay in touch with friends and family.
Tonight we have a look at the pros…and cons…of video visitation.
Other than getting out, visitation is the one thing that jail inmates look forward to the most.
And in some jails, the face of visitation is changing.
Shawn Sutton’s sister is in jail. So is Brandy Goodman’s brother.
From now on if they want to visit with their locked up loved ones, they are going to need a credit card.
“If you don’t have a credit card for fifty cents a minute or the Internet…what are we supposed to do?” asks Sutton. “Just not see ’em? I mean that’s just not right.”
As of this week, visiting a Lonoke county inmate while looking through a small Plexiglas window is a thing of the past.
“Not right now,” says Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley. “It’s all going to be on video.”
Sheriff Staley says in person visitation requires organization and oversight. Visitation times were limited, and on occasion visitors have been known to hide contraband in hopes that jail trusties will find it and deliver it to other inmates.
Staley says the new video visitation system eliminates that possibility and gives loved ones more access to inmates…provided they have the necessary technology and a credit card to pay the fifty cent per minute charge.
“And if somebody says they don’t have the technology…almost everybody has a cell phone that can work, that has a front facing camera,” says Sheriff Staley. “And if they don’t…your local library. They have computers.”
“I have internet on my phone but I don’t have a lap top or I don’t have a credit card even,” says Goodman.
“Unless we go buy new phones or we get some kind of web cam we just can’t…they’re saying we can’t see our family,” says Sutton. “And that’s no good.”
“I think it should be both ways,” says Goodman. “You should have the choice to either go down there or, you know, Internet. Which ever is easier.”
Jefferson and White counties also use the HomeWAV video visitation system, but they also still offer limited in-person visitation hours.
As for the inability of those who lack credit cards to visit, a HomeWAV representative tells us that they hope to allow deposits made to an inmate’s commissary account to be used towards the .50 per minute phone call charge. But that option is not available yet.
Air date: September 17th, 2014