South Dakota County Jail Moves Toward Inmate Video Visitation System

Brown County, S.D., commissioners approved a resolution for online video visitation software to make it easier for inmates to communicate with loved ones.

by Shannon Marvel, American News, Aberdeen, S.D. / June 8, 2016
All virtual visitations will be monitored and recorded. flickr/vickens_dan

(TNS) -- Families with relatives in the Brown County Jail will soon likely have another visitation option, thanks to planned technology upgrades.

During Tuesday's Brown County Commission meeting, Chief Information Officer Paul Sivertsen proposed a software program that would allow inmates to visit with others via an online video communication system.

Commissioners approved a resolution to proceed with the proposal, but took no binding action.

"The only time you can visit anyone in jail is on the weekends. You have to set up an appointment. With this, they'll be able to (visit) seven days a week, so there's a lot more options for families to visit with their loved ones in jail," Sivertsen said.

He said there will be multiple video stations in the jail complex.

"There will be two downstairs for the public and one in each cell block for the prisoners and one in (the Juvenile Detention Center)," Sivertsen said.

"It's all recorded, it's all monitored. Other than during legal counsel, there's no expectation of privacy within the jail. Everything has got to be approved before it happens. It's not like they can just randomly go on the web and pick somebody (to call). There's a lot of safeguards built into these programs," he said.

Inmates are only granted the right to privacy when visiting with their attorney. Otherwise, all video and telephone calls would be recorded and stored on a system that authorities and investigators will be able to tap into, Sivertsen said.

Visitors of jail inmates can use the system at the jail or from anywhere else they can access an approved online connection, he said.

An application would have to be submitted and approved before video visitation would be allowed.

Commissioners seemed inclined to eventually give formal approval to the $28,000 proposal from Consolidated Telecom. Sivertsen said the expense would be covered by user fees. The rate for similar programs used in other security facilities is about 28 cents per minute, he said.

"It's less than two years, then we'll start getting our revenue back," Sivertsen said.

The county would receive a percentage of the revenue generated by the fees.

The system would be put in as part of an ongoing jail improvement construction project.

In other action Tuesday, commissioners:

  • Authorized advertising for a drone ordinance.

Brown County State's Attorney Larry Lovrien said the ordinance is similar to the city's drone ordinance except that rural landowners would be allowed to use drones at night. Landowners would also be able to fly drones at higher altitudes over their property outside of city limits.

The city ordinance states that drones cannot be used within 500 feet of an electricity-generating facility, substation or control center; within 100 feet of an electric transmission facility; or 25 feet of any electric distribution facility or overhead lines without consent of the equipment owner. The ordinance also prohibits flying drones within 1 mile of Aberdeen Regional Airport and notes that they cannot go more than 400 feet above ground. Drones cannot be flown over private property or directly over a person without permission.

©2016 the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.