[Berrien County Commissioners either don't know about the extensive research and information on preventing recitivism by keeping prisoners as close as possible to friends and family while behind bars - or they could care less. Maybe both: if they did know they wouldn't care. And just guess who directly or indirectly controls every move the commissioners make?]
Jail visits will be by video in future
Face-to-face talks across a window will soon disappear
By Scott Aiken - Herald Palladium
Dec. 11, 2009
ST. JOSEPH - People visiting inmates at the Berrien County jail in the near future will no longer see them face to face through glass. Instead, they'll "visit" via video.
County commissioners decided Thursday to get bids for video visitation equipment and related building remodeling and professional services.
A preliminary estimate puts the cost at $297,000. The system is expected to be installed next year.
The video visitations will follow video court arraignments, which Berrien County's judges have used for years through a jail-to-Courthouse link.
With the digital technology in the jail, visits are conducted by television monitors in different parts of the jail. A monitor is to be placed in each jail dormitory for inmates to use. Visitors will use monitors in an area designated for the public.
Visitors now see jail inmates face to face through glass and talk by telephone.
Sheriff Paul Bailey said video visitation improves safety in the jail because it cuts the number of times deputies must move inmates outside their cell areas.
"They do not have to be moved around the jail," Bailey said.
Already in use in many places, the video equipment can also make it easier for people in jail to visit with their lawyers. It could result in inmates having more visits, Bailey said.
The county considered three options for a video visitation system. Commissioners favor the least expensive: converting the current visitation areas on the first and second floors of the jail.
The estimated costs include equipment, wiring, devices and furniture, the county's building and grounds superintendent, Patrick Sweeney, said.
The cost of the video electronics system is estimated at $260,000. Remodeling costs and professional services will make up the balance of the $297,000.
Two other more expensive options were considered and rejected.
One was to renovate the ground-floor jail lobby for use as the public visitation station. The complete video system, remodeling and other costs, including work to meet access standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, would cost an estimated $325,000.
The board also considered using the Legal Aid of Western Michigan building near the sheriff's department on Port Street. System costs, remodeling and other expenses for a visitation station would total an estimated $358,000.
Sweeney told commissioners that the figures are only estimates and could be different from bids submitted by contractors.
The video equipment cost estimate was provided by one company that makes the systems, he said.
For years the county has used video conference equipment for court proceedings. Through a video link, judges in the Courthouse arraign prisoners being held in the jail next door.