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In-Person Visitations Restored At Mecklenburg County Jails, Sheriff's Office Says

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Nick de la Canal / WFAE

After more than two years under a controversial video-only visitation policy, in-person visitations have been fully restored at the Mecklenburg County jail.

Starting today, the sheriff’s office says inmates will be able to have one weekly in-person, face-to-face visit in the jail in addition to one weekly video visitation conducted at an administrative building off Elizabeth Avenue. 

By re-instating in-person visitations, new Sheriff Gary McFadden is keeping a promise he made on the campaign trail. McFadden ousted incumbent former Sheriff Irwin Carmichael, who implemented the video visitation policy.

Carmichael argued video visits are a safer alternative that saves staffing time because inmates could take video calls from their housing units and don’t have to be moved to a central location for visitation. Inmates were only allowed to see professionals for in-person visits — like lawyers and clergy.

The county contracted with Virginia-based GTL for the video services. GTL paid for the system’s $1.7 million installation, but keeps the revenues it earns from paid video visits. Under Carmichael’s policy, inmates got two free visits per week (which was adjusted from one free visit per week originally, after public concern), and then $12.50 for every 25 minutes and $5 for 10 minutes.

Both challengers in the Democratic primary — McFadden and Antoine Ensley — vowed to reinstate in-person visitations, saying that they improved mental health by allowing inmates to keep personal ties to the outside world.

McFadden also says in-person visits “improve public safety.” 

“This simple step alone has been shown to significantly lower the chances that a person will commit another crime after they get out,” McFadden said in a news release. “It also reduces the chance a person will commit an infraction inside the jail, which could adversely impact their release.”

In addition to the one weekly in-person visitation and the one weekly video visitation — which are both free— inmates will also be able to purchase 25-minute video calls for $12.50. Inmates are allowed to purchase one video visitation per day.

The county still contracts with GTL for the video visitation services.