Efforts are in the works to improve safety and security at the Trempealeau County Jail.
Administrators have installed a web-based video visitation system. Not only will it allow family and friends to visit with inmates off-site, but the Trempealeau County Sheriff says it will also help the county cut down on costs.
When a family member or friend visits an inmate in Trempealeau County Jail, it's quite the process.
"Normally when an inmate has visitors they are going to come to the window and check in with us then they are going to go over to our visitation room,” said Sarah Machey, a correctional officer with Trempealeau County Jail.
"We have to shuffle inmates back and forth from their cell block, up to the area to where they meet with the visitor,” said Trempealeau County Sheriff Richard Anderson.
However, the visitation system is about to change.
"We decided as a cost saving to the county as well as to the citizens of Trempealeau County or relatives or friends of the inmates, we looked into doing a video-conferencing system for the inmates,” said Anderson.
Instead of visiting through glass, the inmates will use a web-cam stationed in their cell blocks.
"Now they can do it right from their cell,” said Anderson. “The jailer doesn't have to move or shuffle people around."
Plus, the new system will allow family members to visit with inmates from the comfort of their own home.
"If they have a loved one from out of state this is going to be a lot more convenient for them. They don't need to drive an hour for a 15-20 minute visit,” said Machey.
Although this gives more freedom to the visitors, it still remains a controlled environment. The calls will be recorded and visitor's will sign in using their driver’s license number before placing a call.
"It actually has facial recognition on here so it's just going to be zoomed in on the inmate's face and the visitors face so there's no chance of any gang signs or anything inappropriate,” said Machey.
Jail administrators will continue to monitor "no contact" orders between inmates and visitors, but they will be able to cut down on time and man power to facilitate visitations.
With the new web-cam system, Anderson says they will be able expand visitation hours because the jailers won't have to waste time shuffling the inmates back and forth.
Jail administrators hope to have the new system up and running in about a week.
In order to take advantage of the off-site visitation system, you have to have access to a web-cam, microphone, cable modem and high-speed Internet. It will cost about $4.95 for 15 minutes to talk to an inmate.