Loved ones and lawyers for inmates at the Cherokee County jail will soon be able to talk with inmates via remote video.

During its most recent meeting, the board of commissioners passed an agreement with iWebVisit to provide video visitation software at the county jail.

At the work session prior to the regular meeting, Sheriff Frank Reynolds gave a general overview of the program, how it allows both relatives and attorneys to meet with an inmate without having to drive down to the jail and going through all that an in-person visit requires. At the same time, Reynolds stressed that the program is not designed to replace in-person visits to the jail, but instead was a way to give families and attorneys another way of visiting someone there.

Capt. Charles McMahan, who is overseeing the jail expansion project, said the software also increases safety and security at the jail in addition to being a convenience for communicating with inmates.

“The video visitation and Visitation Center really became a necessity of the expansion project because the housing tower location is just too far from the lobby for visitors to have to walk,” McMahan said. “We already have ‘The Mile’ but with the expansion project, the addition of the housing tower and the additional connecting corridor, we would have had another ‘mile’ for visitors to traverse. It was just too much.

“There is also increased safety and security for the facility by switching to video visitation. We have had instances of contraband (drugs) smuggled into the (jail) via the visitation windows in the past. By conducting visitation from the Visitation Center via video, the opportunity for the introduction of contraband to occur is removed.”

When researching alternate visitation methods as a result of the jail expansion, McMahan said the sheriff’s office heard nothing but positive reviews from other Georgia agencies using it, including Bartow and Richmond counties.

McMahan said it will cost $10,407 to have a kiosk installed at the county courthouse for attorneys to meet remotely with their clients at the jail. For those using iWebVisit to talk to their loved one or client, McMahan said the cost to use the system would not be expensive.

“They only charge $4.50 per 15 minute video visit,” he said. “They really encouraged keeping rates low and non-burdensome on inmates’ families. In the end, we added $1.50 to cover some of our costs.”

McMahan said the system is easy to use, and people wanting to communicate with a loved one at the jail will be able to do so from virtually anywhere.

“They (iWebVisit) operate a call center dedicated to monitoring video calls, freeing up my staff from having to do that,” McMahan said. “They have trained and experienced personnel in their call center who can tap into in-progress calls and check for inappropriate behavior, dress, exposure, etc. and issue warnings or terminate the calls if necessary. They also forward the call recording to appropriate agency personnel for follow-up.”

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