BEDFORD — An increase in the Lawrence County jail population means a decrease in the amount of in-person visitation time with family. In fact, Sheriff Mike Branham said, the ultimate goal is to end all face-to-face visits at the jail.

“We will officially eliminate all face-to-face visitation for all incarcerated individuals,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to get as much life as possible out of a jail (that was) originally designed to house 80 and is now housing more than twice that number."

Branham reported last week the total inmate population was at 162, noting a dramatic increase in bookings. He also said that the average daily inmate count has been spiking during the second quarter of 2017.

“The elimination of face-to-face visits will save staff the time required to conduct visitation; improve safety by reducing inmate movement within the facility; and reduce waiting periods for visitors by giving them the ability to schedule specific times at their convenience. We will continue to allow for one on-site video visit per day, per inmate, at no charge.”

Branham introduced a new policy Monday that will provide more space for inmates to meet with attorneys or case workers by converting two visitation booths into booths equipped for inmates to meet with criminal justice professionals.

“Unfortunately, this means these booths are no longer available for standard visitation,” Branham said. “With the addition of the video visitation kiosks in the lower lobby, weekly in-person visitation has declined on Tuesdays and Sundays. 

“Because of the availability of the video kiosks, and the dwindling in-person visitation numbers, I have made the decision to no longer offer face-to-face visitation to those individuals housed in the lower cell blocks (A-H), effective immediately. While this decision may not be popular with some, I have an obligation to the taxpayers to expedite this process as effectively and efficiently as possible. Additionally, I have an obligation to those who are incarcerated to ensure they have adequate means of connecting with those people who can help expedite the process for them.”

Branham said he is ordering four additional video visitation kiosks to be installed in the visitation room.

“The two kiosks currently located downstairs will be relocated to the same room,” he explained. “This change will create much-needed storage space in the secure part of the (Lawrence County) Security Center. It will also increase safety and security within the facility by eliminating the need to move inmates from cell blocks to visitation booths.”

Branham said the changes should start within the next few weeks.

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