Walker County is the first in the state to provide inmates with mobile tablets. Officials say the technology is keeping the jail safer for inmates, staff, and the community.

Better behavior, more family interaction, intercepted contraband. Those are just some of the ways Walker County Jail officials say mobile tablets are improving the environment for inmates and employees. And, the system comes at no cost to taxpayers.

30 tablets shared by 240 inmates. The entire system was provided by outsourced company called Telmate. The company paid for the installation and maintenance of the system. Inmates pay about 22 cents per call, a rate set by the Federal Communications Commission. Walker County collects about 56% of the costs. Officials say the system, which has been in place for about two years, has transformed family visitation.

“They can see each other,” says Sheriff Jim Underwood. “Their children can see them from the lobby.”

Past visitation was limited to one day a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — with no children under 16 allowed. But, the new tablet system provides wider access in visitation.

The tablets are mostly stationed inside dorms, and cannot be taken to cells. They are used under a closed circuit system, so inmates have no access to the Internet. All communication is legally monitored. Which has come in handy for collecting evidence for existing crime.

“People talk,” says Sheriff Underwood. “Sometimes they tell things they shouldn’t tell.”

It also helps to keep contraband out of the jail, which was a problem during previous visitation. Drugs and other illegal items would be left underneath visiting tables, slid under doors, hidden in bushes, or other places. Officials say the tablet system is working for the jail, by improving behavior and strengthening family ties.

Officials hope to eventually incorporate an education component with the devices.

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