Shawnee Co. Jail Rolls Out Web Cam Visitation, Raises Privacy Concerns

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Visitations between Shawnee County Jail inmates and their families will soon ride a new wave of technology.

Visits in person are limited to 20 minutes, but this new technology will allow inmates to visit with family members and friends for 20 to 40 minutes.

Starting Wednesday, Shawnee County Adult Department of Corrections inmates will be able to visit with family members and friends through an on-site computer web camera with high speed internet.

That's something Department of Corrections Director Brian Cole told Shawnee County Commissioners will be much more convenient than face to face jail visits.

"It will enhance the ability for the community to visit with their if they have somebody that's in jail. A lot of the families have to deal with coming from out of town and out of state-sometimes coming to the jail makes people uncomfortable. This will give them to visit in the confines of their own home," said Cole.

The video conferencing system is supplied by Securus Technologies. It comes with a cost for an inmates' family member or friend of $1 per minute and is expected to be free for taxpayers.

"What's this going to cost the county and the taxpayers to implement and put this equipment in and I want to emphasize that this was nothing! This was zero amount to the county," said Cole.

However, Topeka Defense Attorney Jonathan Phelps says recording conversations between inmates and their loved ones in the privacy of their own homes can create many problems for his clients.

"The Police Department gets to look at your private house. So, it's not only an intrusion upon your conversation in what ought to be a secluded, now they are in your homes viewing that," said Phelps.

Cole and Phelps disagree on the benefit of the new technology.

"I believe it will enhance the safety and security and service to the community," says Cole.

"I would like them to cut it out," says Phelps.

There are rules that come with the system, like making an appointment 24 hours in advance and each inmate is limited to 2 on site visits per week.