Inmate Phone System

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COLUMBIA - Boone County Sheriff's Department is discussing a proposal for a new inmate telephone system.

Amy Robbins, Boone County Purchasing Senior Buyer, said the proposal is in the beginning phases. Vendors must submit a proposal by October 14 at 1:30 p.m. to be considered. Robbins said a committee will come together and use subjective evaluation to weigh the criteria and choose a vendor and plan. After this, she anticipates the jail either staying on its current track or switching to a more updated system by the end of 2014.

Chief Jailer Warren Brewer said he anticipates a lot of feedback from vendors.

"We've already had about five companies, that I'm aware of, that are interested in responding to the bids" Brewer said. "The inmate collect call system is a big business."

Brewer and Robbins said the proposal for a new phone system centered around timing. The jail's current phone contract is set to expire in January, making Brewer want to look at other phone options.

"We normally have a five year contract and we can renew if we want to," Brewer said. "But when we go to conferences, we ask others how it's going with new systems and what the benefits they've seen from video visitation."

He said if the proposals goes through, he suggests the new telephone system to be beneficial in many ways.

"It won't cost the county anything," Brewer said. "They factor in the profit margin and factor in what they can provide us to get the best possible system for the inmates."

 Currently, two of the male housing units have two phones each. There are 13 male housing units. All other housing unit have one phone each. Brewer said each outgoing call costs the inmate about two dollars per minute. Brewer said the potential new phone system will lower the cost per minute. Brewer said this will attract more inmates to place calls, increasing revenues.

"If we can reduce the cost of a call, and introduce video visitation and it can be affordable for them," Brewer said, we'll actually get more use out of the system and the county will actually get more money even at a reduced cost."

Brewer said video visitation is being considered to connect families, however, there will be age restrictions for families.

"We have a strict rule on age requirement, you have to be 16 or above," Brewer said. "I just don't think an infant needs to be in jail. But we are looking at that so inmates can see their children."