'Video Visitation' In Place At OK County Jail To Crackdown On Smuggled Contraband

Monday, March 25th 2013, 6:33 pm
By: News 9

New security measures are underway at the Oklahoma County Jail. "Video visitation" is now being used when loved ones visit inmates.

Every time a visitor goes to see an inmate at the county jail, that creates another opportunity for smuggling in contraband.

It's a crime that's been happening at Oklahoma County for years, but Sheriff Whetsel says this new system could help solve the problem.

The Oklahoma County Detention Center houses up to 2,700 inmates. And in any given week, you'll find visitors going to talk with loved ones behind bars.

Unfortunately, those are opportunities to smuggle in contraband to inmates like drugs, weapons, even cell phones.

"Visitors will bring up contraband, leave contraband in the waiting areas with the hope that trustees coming through to clean would retrieve the contraband and take it back to the secure part of the jail," Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said.

Sheriff John Whetsel says to cut down on the problem, they're putting distance between visitors and inmates with a new video visitation system.

It's setup in a series of cubicles on the first floor.

The goal is not only to limit the amount of contraband coming into the jail, but also to limit the number of visitors upstairs, where jailers are having to transport inmates for every visit.

"We're talking about a great deal of manpower that we won't have to expand on each visitation, and also the security risk of bringing inmates outside their pods," Sheriff Whetsel said.

But that does eliminate face-to-face contact, and the sheriff admits he'll probably hear some negative feedback.

"I'm sure we will, but at the same token, this deals with security," Sheriff Whetsel says, "this allows us to distance people and also lessen the security issues we have inside the building."

The same rules and visitation times are still in place.

And as they're completely phasing out the in-person visits for loved ones, that will not apply for attorneys visiting their clients.

Sheriff Whetsel says right now, they're even working on a system to allow folks at home to have video visitations with inmates.