A Different Video Acquisition for the Sheriff

25 Feb

Two days ago I wrote of Crystal City’s plan to acquire body cameras for police officers. Well, the county sheriff’s department is looking at getting video of a different kind – prisoner visitation video for the jail, according to the Post-Dispatch. The video allows people to visit prisoners remotely, potentially even from home, but in St. Clair County, IL, visitors who travel to the jail still have to use the system in lieu of a face-to-face meeting.

“I hate not being able to see him face-to-face when I come to the jail,” McCullough, 42, said Wednesday as she waited with her mother for her son’s image to appear on one of a dozen monitors in the visiting room.

“I want to get a good look at him, to tell him to stand up and turn around so I can see that he’s getting enough to eat and that he hasn’t been hurt.

“Instead, I have to see his cellmates marching around behind him in their underwear.”

The sheriff there likes it:

“And from the standpoint of safety and security, it’s a huge improvement. Every pod has a video monitor and the prisoners don’t have to be moved for visits, which saves on staff time. And if you cut down on movement of prisoners, you cut down on dangerous incidents.”

There’s another incentive for the sheriff, though:

Fees for off-site visits, in which people can connect with prisoners remotely, will be $20 for a 20-minute session, or $40 for 40 minutes. There is no charge for a video visit at the jail.

Tom Maziarz, manager of the county’s purchasing department, said the county would collect a 20 percent commission if it reached 729 paid visitors a month. In January, there were 388. After two years, the county gets the commission regardless.

Well, isn’t that convenient? It’s like red light cameras, in a way, except here the vendor gets the bulk of the revenue. But in both cases, it is people we don’t like who have to pay – red light runners and families of prisoners. Sure, the visit-from-home feature is nice, but as is pointed out in the article, the population for most jails, like ours, is local, so there wouldn’t be that much utility for it. And making visitors who travel to the jail use the video system is wrong.

Here is why this is relevant to us:

The area’s largest jails, in St. Louis and St. Louis County, are not using a video system, but officials said they were considering it. Officials in Jefferson and St. Charles counties say they want to install one as soon as possible.

I assume this would require an appropriation from the county council, which would give them another opportunity to “micromanage.” This will be a lot harder of a sell for Sheriff Boyer than his domestic violence grant (which was approved, by the way, at last Monday’s special council meeting). He should be turned down.

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