THREE VIDEO visitation centers, including one handicap-accessible station, now greet visitors to the Shiawassee County Jail in Corunna. The new phone system – including the monitors and installation – were provided to the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office at no cost by Combined Public Communications, a national company seeking to expand its service area into Michigan.
The new system has received glowing reviews from jail administrators, employees and inmates, alike. Sheriff Brian BeGole reports that the new technology allows for more convenient and more frequent inmate visitations, it saves the Sheriff’s Office money and it has created a safer work environment in the jail.
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
Since taking office following the November 2016 election, Sheriff Brian BeGole has focused on finding ways to do more with less, especially when it comes to the Shiawassee County Jail, which was built in the early 1960s. Sheriff BeGole has orchestrated a number of repairs and renovations that have improved the appearance and functionality of the jail. And by utilizing jail inmates and volunteer handymen to complete extensive projects such as painting the exterior of the jail and reconfiguring the lobby, Sheriff BeGole has saved valuable resources that can be dedicated elsewhere.
While BeGole and his staff continue to get by in their deteriorating facility, with outdated equipment and technology, they have taken a step into the 21st century with the installation of a new telephone system. The new system was provided to the county at no cost by Combined Public Communications (CPC), replacing a system that had been in place for more than 20 years. The new phones allow for in-person and remote video calling, while also saving the county – and inmates’ friends and family members – money in a number of ways.
Since being installed in early November, the new phone system has been a “win-win,” shared BeGole. With the old phone system, inmates paid $18 for 15 minutes of call time for collect calls, and to pre-pay, inmates were charged a $4.63 connection fee and $.45 per minute. With CPC, remote calls cost .20 per minute, or $.21 per minute for video calls. The convenience of the new system has also made it possible for the jail to increase the number of inmate visitation days from one per week to three.
On top of receiving the new phone system for free – including installation – the Sheriff’s Office now collects a greater percentage of the telephone usage fees, a portion of which were paid to the Sheriff’s Office up front in the form of a $150,000 technology grant. The grant will be used to purchase a new jail transport vehicle and to update essential computer software.
Additionally, the new phone system saves the Sheriff’s Office money by greatly reducing the man-hours required to transport and supervise up to 100 inmates for visitations. The new phones also make for a safer work environment for corrections deputies by limiting the number of times they have to lead inmates through the jail’s underground maze of dark hallways and blind corners.