Visitors may soon be able to video chat Douglas County inmates - CBS46 News

Visitors may soon be able to video chat Douglas County inmates

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From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on any given day, there is a steady stream of people coming to visit an inmate at the Douglas County Jail.

Some go the distance to make these visits, like Glenette Anderson, who has come in from Alabama for the past month to visit her husband Steven.

"He's allowed two visits a week," Anderson said. "Sometimes I can make one. So it's a little rough."

Anderson said she and her husband would benefit from a new system that Douglas County will start testing out at the end of July. The system would allow visitors to see inmates during scheduled, monitored visits from anywhere - as long as they have a good internet connection and a web camera. That could mean big savings for the Andersons.

"It would make all the difference in the world because that's an hour and a half that I don't have to drive one way," Anderson said. "And then as far as finding a babysitter and gas and mileage, it would be so much easier if we could just pop up the computer at home."

Stan Copeland, with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, said that even though the technology would cost nearly $10,000, the county could end up saving, too.

"The staff savings is enormous," Copeland said. "Video visitation allows the inmates to remain in their cell blocks so they're not being moved back and forth within the jail, so it's a huge staff cost saving and it's a huge security issue."

As with any new technology, there are drawbacks. Tera Knight comes to visit her husband Gabriel and said that even while using the current video chatting system within the jail itself, their meetings often cut out.

"It does mean a lot for me to come be able to visit him in here," Knight said.

Copeland said the county will start testing the new system at the end of July by allowing attorneys to meet with inmates remotely through it. Meetings between attorneys and inmates are confidential. Once any audio and video glitches are worked out, Copeland said the public may start using the new visiting method by the beginning of next year.

The system is put together by an Alabama company called Black Creek. A representative for Black Creek said Douglas County has the first jail in the state of Georgia that will use their technology to allow people to visit with inmates from home.

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