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August 19, 2013 06:00 PM

Inmates Use New Video Visitation System

Sioux Falls, SD

Inmates locked up in the Minnehaha County Jail are once again able to visit with family and friends, thanks to new visitation equipment. The old system was shut down for a couple of weeks while the new one was installed.

It can get lonely sitting in jail. That's why Minnehaha County has installed 42 new video systems at the jail and their work release facility.

"This is a privilege we make accommodations for them to have," jail warden Jeff Gromer said. "It's important for them to be able to main contact with friends and family, but it's not a constitutional right."

These new systems were installed at no cost to the county. The vendor makes money off each call and so does the county.

If a family member comes to the jail and uses one of these video systems or one of these phones, it's free. But if a family member calls in from home, the county can make as much as 17-cents a minute.  

Gromer says they're not big money makers, but they do save time compared to the old days of the face-to-face conversations through a glass window.

"It's less moving of inmates in order to do that you have to take an inmate and escort them from one spot of the jail to another," Gromer said.

There is a system in place to use the new video visitation equipment. If an inmate wants to talk with a family member, the family member has to make an appointment 24 hours in advance. Each inmate can use the system for 15 minutes at a time, day or night which Gromer says is another advantage for the inmates.

"Compared to the days when they had to visit through the glass on the phone, they have a lot more access to their friends and family," Gromer said.

The new contract with IC Solutions guarantees a payment to the county of at least $170,000 for the first year.

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