Video visitation now on line at Ozark County Jail
The Ozark County Sheriff’s Department rolled out a new video visitation and chat program this week, allowing inmates in custody to connect with loved ones through video conferencing.
Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed told the Times Monday that the system will also allow judges to process video arraignments and other hearings from a computer in the judge’s office to the inmate seated in a conference room at the jail. Reed says that conducting the hearings by video conference will substantially reduce the security risk of traditional inmate transportation to the courthouse for hearings. It will also help ease the burden jail staff have for transporting inmates back and forth, including the 15 Greene County inmates the Ozark County Jail is housing now under contract with Greene County, which has more prisoners than it has jail space for.
Reed said Ozark County jail staff is responsible for transporting the inmates to and from their hearings in Springfield, so any hearings that can be completed through video conferencing will be a big help.
The video system, provided and funded 100 percent by Encartele, a correctional facility technology company, became operational Monday. Reed said Ozark County Jail employee Curtis Ledbetter has been instrumental in bringing the new program to the jail and wading through all the technical aspects of the software and hardware.
Reed said Encartele provided the sheriff’s department with four 50-inch video screens and five texting/calling stations as part of the program. Encartele will repair or replace the system, free of charge, if any damages occur.
One screen has been placed in each of the three jail pods, allowing prisoners in each of the pods to send and accept video chats with loved ones. Another screen, installed in the main lobby of the sheriff’s department, will have information for visitors including jail rules, information on the judicial process and visitation hours.
Inmates have traditionally purchased phone cards through Encartele to communicate with family and loved ones through the jail’s phone system. Now, inmates and family members can instead purchase cards that allow inmates to use the video chat in their pods, as well as send text messages. Reed says inmates are allowed to make video calls or send text messages to loved ones during a 10-hour timeframe each day with their repurchased calling cards.
Weekly visitation, from 1 to 3 p.m. each Sunday, will also now be held through the video conferencing system, another way to help lessen the burden on jail staff.
Reed said he anticipates the new system will help improve inmate morale because those in custody will get to “see” their loved ones more frequently, including loved ones who live far away and traditionally have only been able to communicate over the phone.