MACON - Family members who visit jail inmates are used to seeing them in person through the glass, but the Jones County Sheriff's Office is changing that. They are ending most face-to-face visits in jail by using video conferencing.
The sheriff's office said the new technology is good for inmates, but also for officers' safety.
"Before when we were doing face-to-face visits, we would have to remove inmates from the block, which means the officers had to come off the block, move an inmate bring him up here and escort him through the hallways through the secure corridors and all that stuff " Captain Guy Mosteller said.
The service is free for families if you visit the jail, but it does cost $3.50 for 15 minutes if you want to meet by video with an inmate from home. The cost offsets the expenses for taxpayers and the jail.
"The funds generated through lattice helps offset the cost of the equipment, so it's not costing the taxpayers a dime. We're not paying anything" he said.
As far as safety, a person working at the front desk will monitor the videos. They also have 24/7 assistance from the company who runs the equipment. Mosteller said this new technology means less foot traffic at the detention center
"People, for a one-hour visitation coming in here from 5 to 6, which was what a typical visitation time was, this lobby could actually be full and parking down the road just to see an inmate for a 15- or 30-minute visit," Mosteller said.
With the new technology, family members can make an appointment online or video call from home.
"But what we're hoping for the convenience for the families, them being able to visit any day of the week, to be able to visit from home," said Mosteller.
The service will also expand visitation hours for inmates, not limiting visits to a specific schedule. Even though face-to-face visits are being eliminated, some will still be allowed in emergency situations
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