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Technology could change life for inmates

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

 

Lincoln County inmates may soon be chatting with friends and family using a computer video system.

Catawba County’s jail became the first state detention center to install a video visitation technology, according to a press release from HomeWAV, the company that makes the innovative system. Lincoln County’s northern neighbor added the system to their jail earlier this month.

According to Lincoln County Sheriff’s Lt. Alan Houser, the system would greatly benefit children and elderly.

“We don’t have to bring them into a hostile environment,” he told the Times-News. “It (jail) is a big culture shock.”

In addition, inmates would be forced to remain in their secure blocks when video chatting, keeping them from integrating with each other.

“It’s really a big safety issue,” Houser said.

While deputies said visitors may initially be opposed to being unable to see loved ones in the same physical environment, they’ll get to converse for longer periods of time.

With the current visitation setup, inmates are only allowed to visit with friends and family for up to 15 minutes once a week. However, with the new system, visits can be increased to 20 visits per week.

“They’re still human, and we try to give them opportunities to talk with their family and friends,” he said. “You (inmates) are away from your families, and you get worried about them.”

Davidson County has also installed the video visitation system at their jail along with various sheriff’s offices in Virginia, Houser told the Times-News.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office is currently looking at two different systems for potential installation at the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center and will choose the one that “will give the best opportunities for inmates and visitors,” Houser said.

Companies will be doing demonstrations for the sheriff’s administration in the near future.

Houser predicted that each of the five blocks in the county jail would receive two computer stations with the video technology, giving inmates a total of 10 computers to use, which will each be screened and monitored during video chats.

“A staff member or the sheriff can view (the video chat) from any Internet connection,” Houser said. “If there’s anything out of the ordinary, we can disconnect the visit right on the spot.”

In addition, the monitor stations will be secured to the walls and contained inside heavy metal cabinets with unbreakable glass, making them difficult to damage, deputies said.

The system will be free to install and could be in use as soon as six months.

 

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