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Summit County Jail inmates may get video visitation

5/8/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council’s Public Safety Committee considered a number of new pieces of proposed legislation May 5, including a technology upgrade that would provide for video visitation at the Summit County Jail.

Inspector Bill Holland, of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, said the technology would be provided by Inmate Calling Solutions, amending an existing contract and extending it for an additional three-year term, through July 14, 2018, and upping the commission rate from 70 percent to 72 percent.

Inmates will still be allowed a free half-hour of visitation, but if they want to go beyond that, they can take advantage of the video visitation, said Holland. Video visitation, which would be similar to Skyping, explained Holland, would cost $10 for 20 minutes and $15 for 30 minutes.

Ten terminals and associated equipment valued at more than $300,000 would be provided at the jail by Inmate Solutions at no cost to the Sheriff’s Office, added Holland.

Committee discussion centered on what would be filed among police records, with questions left unanswered.

“I would like clarification on exactly what the waiver is and if [conversations will be] recorded, because I would like to know that it is not being recorded. Because if it is being recorded, we’re going to have a slippery slope,” said Councilwoman Tamela Lee (D-District 5).

Telephone conversations are recorded currently, Holland noted.

“If this is in addition to phone conversations, which currently are recorded, then we’re allowing a level of freedom [on video calls, if they are not recorded] that’s not allowed in phone conversations, and I’m not sure why that would be,” said Councilwoman Sandra Kurt (D-at large).

Holland said he expects officers would “spot check” the video visits without monitoring them the entire time, he said.

He promised he would provide clarification to Council members on whether the video visits would be recorded and filed.

Despite the lingering questions, the committee recommended Council adopt the legislation at the next meeting, after noting the contract was set to begin April 1.

The Finance Committee recommended one piece of legislation to the full Council, to conduct an auto auction for several surplus vehicles in poor condition in the Sheriff’s Office’s inventory. Holland said the vehicles, which come from both seizures and the department’s fleet, are not worth repairing.

The Public Safety Committee also looked at and recommended to Council several new pieces of legislation related to funding for correctional programs operated by the Summit County Adult Probation Department, Oriana House and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

Lori Pesci, of the Division of Public Safety, explained grants at hand are for programs for fiscal year 2015 for felony offenders ($1.23 million) and for misdemeanor offenders ($359,000), from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

An additional award from the state’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would funnel about $5.5 million for 10 beds for a community-based correctional facility operated by Oriana House, said Pesci. The committee also recommended Council adopt legislation to accept and appropriate those funds.

The Public Works Committee discussed and recommended to Council two pieces of legislation relating to utility billing for the Department of Environmental Services (DOES).

Mike Weant, director of DOES, said E-Tactics, of Stow, in its third year contracting with the county, is responsible for the quality control portion of the customer billing process, resulting in savings on returned mail. The company’s agreement with the county costs $31,000, according to the legislation.

Bridgestone Americas, also in its third year with the county, would print, fold, stuff and mail the bills for $100,000, Weant said.

The Public Works Committee also recommended Council confirm a contract awarded by the Board of Control with Jones Stuckey for design services for the Vanderhoof Road bridge replacement project in New Franklin for $265,000.

According to Heidi Swindell, of the Engineer’s Office, the current bridge was built in 1929 and today is classified as “structurally deficient.” The Engineer’s Office sent out requests for proposals to five firms before choosing Jones Stuckey’s proposal, she said.

Council will next meet May 12 at 4:30 p.m. for caucus, followed by a regular meeting in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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