MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Video visits are expanding at the Shelby County jail. There are now about 140 cameras and monitors where inmates can visit with their family and friends.
While the chief jailer believes the technology is improving safety, some visitors miss the old way of doing things.
While inmates are under lock and key, each week they have two hours to get a taste of home, but family and friends say visitations aren’t what they used to be.
“It’s a safer process. It’s much safer,” said Robert Moore, chief jailor for the Shelby County jail.
Instead of shuffling hundreds of inmates twice a week downstairs so they can visit with their loved one, they now can stay on their floor and visit via video camera.
“You have less movement and you have less staff,” said Moore. “It is just an entirely safer process.”
There are a total of 68 visitation booths just on the first floor of 201 Poplar.
Those booths were once visitation windows, and have been replaced with video monitors.
“I hate it hate because you can’t see his face,” said London Martin.
Some visitors say the camera angle is wrong and the rooms are too dark for a clear picture.
Martin wants to feel closer to her boyfriend.
“I’d rather him be in the window so I can see him so he could put his hands to the glass.”
“It’s only a screen between the visitor and inmate,” said Moore.
Despite some complaints, Moore wants to expand the video visitations.
A mobile video unit just went up at Regional One Health so injured inmates can visit with family, and Moore is hoping the sheriff will approve bringing video visit stations to malls and neighborhoods.
“Then family members wouldn’t have to drive downtown and try to find parking and all of these things,” Moore said. “They would actually go to the neighborhood stations.”
While technology can have problems, Moore says video visits prevent staff from shuffling about 2,000 inmates up and down jail floors each day.