Photo By Alex Boerner
Protesters outside the Durham County Detention Facility
The Durham County Sheriff's Office says users are responding well to a video visitation system put in place at the county jail in October.
The agency surveyed eighty-six video visitation users during a month-long period (about a third of the total who used the technology) and released the results
of those surveys today. Nearly 92 percent of those surveyed said they would use the technology again.
According to the survey, users gave high marks to the video and audio quality of the free service. Currently, users must go to the Durham County Detention Center to access the system, which allows them to video chat with detainees.
The Sheriff's Office is considering whether to add remote visits, allowing people to video call inmates from a mobile device or computer. Eighty-three percent of respondents said they would be interested in that feature.
"The Agency is sensitive to the financial demands placed on families," the Sheriff's Office said in a press release. "For this reason, the Sheriff’s Office has not yet decided to offer at-home remote visits which could require a user fee."
According to the Sheriff's Office, there were 834 in-person visits and 252 video visits during the first month of video visitation.
The roll-out of video visitation has been met with concern
that the technology would eventually replace in-person visitation altogether, as it has in many other jails
The Sheriff's Office has said it has no plans to eliminate in-person visitation. The Durham County Board of Commissioners has said the service should only be used in addition to in-person visits, and the Durham Humans Relations Commission, issuing recommendations for how to improve the jail, urged the Sheriff's Office to keep in-person visits. Heeding concerns from detainees, the Inside-Outside Alliance has held regular protests
against video visitation.
The Sheriff's Office says video visitation allows for more frequent, longer visits and could lead to more technology at the jail, like tablets for detainees.
“We'll continue asking video visitation users how their visits with their loved ones are going," said Sheriff Mike Andrews. "Overall, the new technology is turning out to be a very helpful option for visitors. We want to thank all the people who shared their thoughts as we consider whether to offer remote visitation.”