Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier wants to install an automated phone system that could help answer roughly 80 percent of the estimated 320 phone calls the Stark County jail receives each day.
Stark County sheriff employees spend the equivalent of nearly 325 days on the phone each year.
Most of the time they are answering the same series of questions from a jail inmate’s loved ones:
“What are the jail’s visitation hours?”
“When is the next court date?”
“What is the inmate’s commissary balance?”
“When is the inmate’s release date?”
“Where is the courthouse?”
Sheriff Maj. Brian Arnold said too often the large quantity of questions distracts jail employees from supervising inmates and completing their other daily duties.
“My officers and staff can’t do their work when the phone is ringing off the hook,” said Arnold, the jail’s administrator.
The sheriff’s office wants to install an automated information services phone system that could help answer roughly 80 percent of the estimated 320 phone calls the jail receives each day. Inmates, who now must submit their questions in writing to a guard, also could call the system to retrieve information, Arnold said.
The jail’s current phone system gives callers automated prompts to direct callers to the appropriate division. It doesn’t give callers any information about the inmate.
“Right now, it takes a body to tell them the information,” he said.
The new system made by Telerus can tell an inmate or caller — in English or Spanish — what charges the inmate is being held on, when the inmate’s next scheduled court date will be, when the inmate is scheduled to be released and even where the courthouse is located. It also will allow loved ones to electronically deposit money into the inmate’s jail account and could be programmed to allow them to schedule a visit.
Arnold said the phone system’s information would be updated every 15 minutes and would also be accessible online at InmateInfo.com.
Sheriff George T. Maier said the new system would cost $10,500 a year through Securus Technologies, which already handles the jail’s inmate phone system and would not charge a startup fee. He estimates it would save the sheriff’s office roughly $112,147 a year, largely through saved staff time.
“It’s beyond cost neutral,” said Maier, a Democrat. “... I think we would generate a huge return on this.”
County commissioners are expected to consider the automated phone service during the board’s meeting Wednesday.
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