Video Chat for Inmates Coming to a Jail Near You?
GASTON CO., N.C. - In 2012, there were nearly 29,000 inmate visits to the Gaston County jail. All of them took place in private booths deep inside the jail. Later this year, that could change.
Sheriff Alan Cloninger is exploring the possibility of video visitation, available as early as August. "You're able to pay a fee and go online and visit with an inmate in the facility here. The fee may be comparable to the cost of a gallon of gas coming up here to visit."
The video chat would have restrictions. For example, if a second face moves into frame or if it detects unauthorized movement, it would shut off. Cloninger says, "'Improper display of the body,' I reckon, is the best way to say that."
Controlling what goes on on both sides of the camera is a drawback, says Cloninger. But all of the conversations would be monitored and recorded. Darryl on Facebook calls video visitation a "great thing." He says "If any one of us was wrongfully placed in jail, we would value any contact we could have with our loved ones." John argues, "Jail is not supposed to have luxury and conveniences." And Jerry says, "The criminal has it better than most of us working class!"
Inmates are currently allowed 15 minute visits once a week. Video visits could be longer. Cloninger says making it easier for kids to keep in touch with an incarcerated parent as well as reducing visitor searches and eliminating contraband attempts are other advantages to the system. "It would improve safety and security," says Cloninger.
Cloninger says the cost to the taxpayer would be nothing. He says he'll choose a vendor that'll provide and install the equipment free of charge. The vendor will make money off the user fee. "In person" visits, that cost nothing, would still be available.