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Former Inmate Reacts To Benton County Jail Ending Free, In-Person Visitations

BENTONVILLE (KFSM) - The Benton County Detention Center is ending free in-person visitations. Some say this change will have a negative impact on the behavior of inmates.

''Ending visitation is going to hurt poor people who can't necessarily afford 50 cents a minute to talk to their loved ones, it's also just bad policy because it will likely lead to higher reciprocation and less rehabilitation,'' said local attorney Justin Meeks.

Web video visits will soon be in place that work like Skype or FaceTime, requiring the person the inmate is calling to have a computer or a phone. Phone calls made over the new service will have a fee.

Former Benton County inmate Florentina Veloz knows first-hand the impact of in-person visitations while incarcerated.

''I just did four months in here, and visitations are something that everyone looks forward to. Just the fact that you get to see how your kids are growing, it's that face-to-face interaction,'' said Veloz.

Despite the pushback from the community, Sgt. Shannon Jenkins says this change is positive.

''The first of the year we'll have it to where it's smartphone ready, so then they can visit from anywhere, a park if they wanted to. Just having that extra convenience for the public, I think they are really going to like it,'' said Jenkins.

For people who cannot afford visitations, the Benton County jail is working to create a kiosk in their lobby that will be free to use.

''In case somebody doesn't have a computer right now, or they don't have the funds, they will still have the opportunity to visit, but it will be over video,'' said Jenkins.

When the new program is launched on Sept. 1, inmates will be allowed two virtual visits per week.

Benton County deputies tell 5NEWS they do not profit from the new system. The money made from the calls go directly toward the cost of the video service.