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Riverside County to Add New Jail in 2017: Use Video Conferencing Instead of In-Person Visits

July 01, 2014

In an effort to ease inmate overcrowding, Riverside County, Calif. plans to build a new jail in Indio that is scheduled to open in 2017. Known as the East County Detention Center (ECDC), the new facility will house over 1,200 inmates and use video conferencing in place of in-person visits.

Located 120 miles east of Los Angeles, Indio is near the center of Riverside County. The city has a population of about 70,000 and is slightly below sea level in the Colorado Desert region. Riverside County is roughly the same size as the U.S. state of New Jersey with its western border about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. The county continues eastward for over 150 miles to the Arizona state line.

The county requires an extensive jail system, given its relatively large size and population of just over 2 million. Currently there are five detention facilities, three of which are in the western part of the county where the population is more concentrated. Another facility is located in Indio while the remaining facility is located in the city of Blythe, adjacent to the Arizona border.

According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, ECDC will not be setup for in-person visits of inmates. Instead, the facility will provide video conferencing from terminals in one area of the jail, while inmates will be able to communicate through video terminals in another part of the facility. In the future, the county may allow visitors to video conference from home.

Several jails across the U.S. are using video conferencing as a way for inmates to visit with family and friends. The Shawnee County Jail in Topeka, Kan. recently eliminated in-person visits in favor of a video conferencing solution developed by Securus Solutions. Visitors can video conference with inmates from public access terminals near the jail or from home at a cost of $1 per minute. Only defense attorneys will be able to visit inmates in person. Similar systems are in use in Lubbock County, Texas; Lake County, Ill. and Napa County, Calif.

The benefits of video-only visiting are considerable for sheriffs managing jails across the U.S.  It reduces contraband smuggling substantially and the safety risks that come with transporting inmates. Less transporting of inmates also means counties save money on labor costs. For jails like the ECDC, these benefits are even larger, since the state has shifted some of the burden of housing inmates back to the counties. Given these benefits, it’s very likely more and more counties in the U.S. will follow ECDC and other facilities’ lead and use video conferencing for visits in their jails. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle