The Lowndes County Adult Detention Center will soon begin offering improved communication services to inmates.
Capt. Richard Jones, the jail administrator, said the facility received 13 new email kiosks on Monday. They should be installed within the next few weeks, Jones said.
Jones said the kiosk manufacturer, Smart Communications Inc., is providing the kiosk system at no cost to the county. The company is paying for the equipment and installation cost, which is worth about $46,000.
There is a 50 cent charge for emails and a $1 charge for digital photos. An information booklet from Smart Communications says the company shares a percentage of generated revenue with the correctional facility.
The kiosks — which are military-grade, with a built-in screen and keyboard — will be installed near the phones in the jail’s common area. They will allow inmates to email attorneys, families and friends. Inmates cannot send photos, but can receive them. Jones said all communications will be monitored.
“We’ll have one individual that’s specifically designated to look at it,” he said. “They’ll either hit the O.K. button or decline it.”
Jones said the email system should cut down on the amount of mail coming into the jail. It will also make it easy for inmates to have pictures — they’re currently only allowed to have up to five physical photographs, but can have more stored on the email system.
They will allow inmates to make electronic requests for supplies, such as medicine, that previously had to be handwritten. Jones said that functionality should, in addition to saving money through reduced paper usage, increase efficiency and accountability for inmate requests. He added that the improvements should be especially helpful in keeping up with inmate requests for medical supplies.
“When an inmate request is made, it’s set up for so many days for it to be responded to,” he said. “If it’s responded to it will be flagged. After another few days the flag will go from yellow to red. If it’s still not responded to, it will reflag and send it to my office to where I can check and see why it hasn’t been answered. It’s an accountability improvement.”
Beyond that, the kiosks allow inmates to look up legal information, if needed. They also provide translations. Web browsing is not an option on the kiosks.
The new kiosks will put the Lowndes County Detention Center on the cutting edge among other jails in Mississippi.
“There’s only one other facility in the state of Mississippi that I know that has this, and that’s DeSoto County,” Jones said. “They have an enhanced version where they can actually do video visitation, so if you’re at the house you can video in. We’re not moving to that anytime soon, but down the road, who knows?”
Jones said Tiger, the company that provides food services to the jail, first informed them about the kiosk system. He said they looked into it and found Smart Communications, who offered to install the system at no cost, and a competing company that would have passed the cost on to the jail.
He added that jail administration went to DeSoto County to check out the system before making a decision.
“We actually went to De Soto County to observe these in action,” he said. “We saw an inmate using one…I asked him how hard it was to use and he said it’s no problem at all. We thought it would be a great asset.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.