CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Inmates could be able to visit with friends and family in-person at Mecklenburg County Jail this holiday season.
New Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden announced plans Friday to restore in-person visits for people held in the Mecklenburg County jail. McFadden says restoring that privilege is the right thing to do.
“I think it’s good for the person here,” Sheriff McFadden said. “It brings them some sense of dignity back - so we are going to do it.”
The jail will offer free in-person visits during the week of Dec. 24, 2018 through Dec. 31, 2018 as a temporary measure until the policy is fully put into effect. One thing that has to be worked out is manpower to keep eyes on inmates and visitors.
“You always are going to be short of staff,” Chief of Detention Center Telisa White said. “I think we are going to work it out. We’ve got folks on board and we will work it out to the best of our ability, because at the end of the day we are going to think safety and security before anything.”
In 2017, Mecklenburg County joined a growing number of North Carolina jails that ended in-person visits,
“Allowing our residents to stay connected to family and loved ones through in-person visits improves public safety,” said Sheriff McFadden. “This simple step alone has been shown to significantly lower the chances that a person will commit another crime after they get out. It also reduces the chance a person will commit an infraction inside the jail, which could adversely impact their release. In addition, it improves mental health outcomes and strengthens family units and community ties.”
According to a press release from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, studies have shown that staying connected with family and loved ones through in-person visits improves public safety and outcomes.
The press release references one study that shows that in-person visits were found to decrease a person’s likelihood of committing a crime after release by up to 30 percent.
Free internet visits that normally cost $12.50 for 25 minutes will be provided free of charge on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
A total of two free five-minute phone calls will also be allowed beginning Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018.
In-person visits is not the only thing on the new Sheriff's mind. He says there will be change when it comes to solitary confinement in the jail.
"We are going to look at the best practices," McFadden said. "And follow the best practices."
The new Sheriff is also concerned about the suicides that have recently happened inside the jail.
“I am going to meet with those families,” the Sheriff said. “Sit down - find out what we can do better and how we can prevent them - then I am going to talk to staff about how can we prevent these deaths in the jail.”
While change is happening at the jail, McFadden addresses his stance on eliminating 287G in Mecklenburg County. Some fear without that program, immigration laws won’t be enforced in the county.
“We cannot tell Homeland Security or ICE how to do their jobs,” McFadden said. “We are not hindering them from doing their job in Mecklenburg County. If they need our assistance, we will still assist them. We are not going to let ICE agents get hurt and we are not going to let any of our citizens get hurt.”