The Lee County Sheriff’s Office recently installed a few more technology upgrades intended to tighten security and speed operations at Lee County Jail.
The equipment, purchased by federal stimulus money ($235,000), includes a metal detector for jail visitors, a fast-moving fingerprint scanner and, most importantly, a video linkup connecting inmates to courts.
Jail personnel will be able to utilize the video to have inmates appear before magistrates and judges for initial court appearances without leaving the jail, said Lt. David Prevatte of the Sheriff’s Office.
Currently, suspects must physically go before a judge or magistrate, requiring intensified security and transportation worries. But a split-screen video hookup will do that from a jail cell under lock and key.
“I’m very excited about this,” said Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter. “This is going to greatly enhance the security of the jail.”
Officer Chris Amundson of Lee County Jail showed off the video monitor in a courtroom and jail cell Thursday, explaining the device will also allow fast connections to courts in other parts of the state and the nation utilizing the same machinery if an inmate is wanted for legal proceedings elsewhere.
Prevatte cited past worries about inmates’ attempting to escape as they were processed before a magistrate, or courtroom scuffles brought on in high-emotion cases when the accused meet their alleged victims face-to-face.
“You can now simply take him over to the video conference and he can interact with the judge and the attorney without having to physcially leave the secure facility,” Prevatte said.
Carter said it will also cut down on local courtroom traffic.
Jail personnel expect to phase in the video conferencing starting next week.
Meanwhile, the fast-scan booking device uses a computer pad to register fingerprints and allows the Sheriff’s Office to quickly identify an individual who has been booked in the law enforcement system before, bypassing potential false IDs on prisoners providing fake names, Carter said.
Carter said the technology will also interface with federal immigration data, streamlining the often time-consuming process of booking an inmate and checking their citizenship status.
“It’s a larger net,” he said.
Prevatte said the upgrades bring Lee County online with some of the state’s larger counties like Wake County, which had already obtained the technology.
The metal detector will scan all visitors, including attorneys, meeting with inmates, Amundson said.
“It’s all about security, keeping everything secure,” Amundson said.