In 2017, the Charlotte County Jail introduced Smart Communication Devices into the facility to provide additional services, improve safety related to mail handling and delivery, encourage personal development, and maintain communication with their loved ones.
“The devices were introduced as a way to prevent contraband from coming into the facility through the mail,” stated Captain Melissa Turney, assigned to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Detention. “Mail is received electronically, and detainees are able to read their correspondence through the devices. Detainees also now have additional communication options to keep in touch with loved ones using messaging.”
Installed programming allows detainees the ability to complete self-help and court ordered classes on the devices. Books are now provided on the devices, helping reduce contraband that was being exchanged through the library.
It is the intention of the program that all eligible detainees have access to a smart communication device. This intention is challenged by the intentional destruction of the devices by some of the users. Each device is approximately $300, whether completely destroyed or in need of repairs to the screen or internal workings. The company, Smart Communications, is responsible for the cost of replacement. The jail also keeps a supply of replacements on hand to ensure detainees do not lose time on their device due to the destructive actions of another.
To deter the destruction of the devices, the company pursues charges on detainees when it is determined that the damage was intentional. In addition to losing privileges on the device for 30 days, a detainee can face Criminal Mischief charges for the damage.
A detainee at the jail, Tristan Royer (DOB 1/23/84) was sentenced on April 26 for charges stemming from a January incident at the jail, in which he damaged a Smart Communication device. Royer was observed throwing the device across the recreation yard into a basketball net, causing it to break. Royer was charged with Criminal Mischief on January 18th and sentenced on Friday to 180 days in jail, in addition to paying restitution to Smart Communications for the device.
“Research shows that incarcerated people who maintain supportive relationships with family members have better outcomes when they return to the community, especially as it relates to recidivism,” states Major Michael Anderson, assigned to the Bureau of Detention. “It is important these devices are treated appropriately so that every detainee is able to benefit from their use.”