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Camp Verde jail relying on new technology

CAMP VERDE -- Captain Brian Hunt, who commands the Yavapai County jail, has a strong IT background, so it comes as no surprise that he is a big proponent of using technology to make the jail run smoothly.

A relatively new concept the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office (YCSO) has instituted is remote booking. It takes advantage of wireless Internet technology, and Hunt said, has received national attention.

"A deputy by the side of the road in Bagdad can sit there with an arrestee in the back of his car and complete his portion of the booking (via his in-car computer)," Hunt said. "It appears here, sometimes hours before the (prisoner) appears here."

Combined with the ability to physically book prisoners in Prescott, police spend less time off the road doing paperwork, and more time on patrol.

Perhaps best of all, the system was free because YCSO helped the vendor develop and troubleshoot it.

Remote booking has not yet come to Mohave County's jail, although booking at police substations does get transmitted to the jail.

Another advance Camp Verde uses that has yet to be implemented in Mohave County is iris scanning.

Like fingerprinting, the iris is unique to each person, and cannot be altered. Each inmate is scanned when he or she enters the facility. It's a quick process, faster and neater than fingerprinting - the prisoner peers into a device that looks similar to the vision-check gadget at Motor Vehicles and an image of the iris is stored in a computer. The scans are added to a growing national database.

The next big thing at Camp Verde is video visitation. Currently, prisoners have visitation by family members on a rigid schedule - certain inmates on certain days, for a specified length of time. It works like what you might see in a movie: a row of prisoners sits on one side of a pane of glass, talking via a telephone handset to a visitor on the other side. A detention officer watches over the process.

A modular structure in the jail parking lot is being outfitted so visitors can come in and have a teleconference with an inmate on one of 40 similar systems located inside the dorm areas. It saves money and adds security, too, because staff won't have to escort inmates to the visitation area and deal with bringing people into the jail to talk with them.

The price tag for the video system: $135,000, which will come from YCSO funds, and was approved by the county Board of Supervisors this week.

When it comes to inmate visitation, Mohave County's jail has taken the lead. Face-to-face contact is not allowed. Instead, there's a room filled with 26 video stations adjacent to the jail's lobby. There, a person can visit with his or her inmate of choice via video link.

Also on the way to Camp Verde is a kiosk system like an ATM, to be placed at police stations, that will allow people to bond out a prisoner by swiping a credit or debit card, 24 hours day. Prisoners could also get money added to their jail accounts at the same kiosks.

Still on the horizon, Hunt said, is visitation by Internet from home or a mobile device by a service such as Skype.

"We have a Sheriff who absolutely believes in maximizing technology to the greatest extent possible," Hunt said. "It's good stuff."

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