Bingham County inmates will soon be able to visually communicate with family and friends through a new video visitation system.
"We are so excited about this new video equipment," said Sheriff Dave Johnson. "Not only is it great for the inmates to be able to communicate face-to-face with their families, but it will help greatly with security issues and save time; no more moving the inmates back and forth to make calls."
Bingham County is the fourth county in the state to obtain such a system and, according to Johnson, this new 'state of the art' equipment isn't costing the county or the taxpayers one penny.
"The system was provided by Telmate - the company that we have our phones through," Johnson said. "They provided the system as an addition to our current contract and it will be totally paid for by the inmate's phone calls."
He went on to say, "By law, inmates are allowed two free 30-minute visits a week. Soon the video phone monitors will be set up in every jail pod, giving the inmates the opportunity to call as frequently as they would like; they will have to pay for the additional phone calls ahead of time through a personal phone account."
The cost for the phone calls is 33 cents a minute when calling from inside the courthouse or 66 cents a minute when calling from an outside location. Friends and family members can add money to an inmate's phone account by using the Telmate kiosk inside the lobby of the courthouse.
Johnson said he expects the system to be completely paid for in about seven years.
After that, the funds generated from the system will go directly into an 'inmate account' to pay for things such as bedding, televisions etc...
Johnson said he believes this new system will be especially beneficial to families.
"It's always sad when a parent is incarcerated," he said. " This is a way for them to not miss out on birthdays, holidays or other special events."
"It just takes a computer with a web-cam on it to to use this system, which most people have. If not they can go to the library...so there's not any additional expense to the family," he added.
The Telmate visitation system is programmed in English and Spanish and can also be used to view religious services, conduct a job interview, download e-books and access the internet. All activity on the system is closely monitored by law enforcement.
Johnson said he expects this new system to be fully installed and ready for use in about 45 days.