LUBBOCK, Texas — Inmates at the Lubbock County Detention Center received tablets last month that gave them access to legal resources, E-books, movies, and games. They can also text and video chat with loved ones.
Chief Deputy Cody Scott said the upgrades have proven to be safer, more sustainable and more accessible.
“We don’t have to worry about inmates receiving drugs. [The device] gives them quick access to view photographs, read letters, and we’re still able to monitor all of those things like we did before,” Scott said. “It hasn’t restricted us in any way, just enhanced our ability and freed up some staff.”
Letters that used to be sent to the detention center are now sent to a mail processing facility, where they are scanned and later approved for inmates to view.
The system powering the tablets has a facial recognition feature which restricts viewing to faces only. If the system does not recognize what it views as being a face, then the screen goes black. Staff members monitor activity throughout the day and suspicious activity is met with a warning or removal of opportunity.
“We have seen where some of the inmates and their family members have tried to manipulate [the system] and if we catch them trying to do that, then we can give them a warning or end the visit at that point in time,” Scott explained.
Remote visits cost 10 cents per minute while in-person visits remain free. The state of Texas requires its detention facilities to allow 20-minute visits, but the new system at LCDC allows for 30-minute visits. Inmates do not have limits on the number of calls they can have each day, but calls must be scheduled at least 24 hours prior.
All inmates have access to the tablets, with one tablet for every six inmates. They have the opportunity to check tablets in and out between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. everyday.
“When I first started, it was handheld phones on both sides of a very, thick glass, and then technology came in and we went to video visitation, which is our older system,” said Transportation Sergeant Amber Thieme. “Now we’ve upgraded, so we’ve gone from having face-to-face to [being] halfway around the world. It’s an amazing upgrade.”
Chief Deputy Scott said giving inmates access to their family members in ways they did not have previously has benefitted their mental health. The tablets mitigate boredom and may prevent bad behavior, but not enough data has been collected, as the new system launched less than two months ago.
With several options for entertainment and communication on the tablets, Scott believes the space has become more safe.
“I think it helps keep the inmates be more busy, and with less time to cause issues for the staff or deface the facility,” Scott stated.
As required by the state, inmates have access to legal resources so they can look up laws and rights with the touch of a button.
A company called Smart Communications provided the tablets and installed all of the equipment for LCDC, so the county has not paid for the upgrades.