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The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Ventura County Jail allows emails to inmates

On Feb. 11, the Detention Services Division of Ventura County Jail began to allow email access to inmates through a program known as “Email an Inmate.”

This is not the first time a jail has introduced such a program. San Diego County Jail has a similar program, which has been successful, according to the Ventura County Star.

The hope for the Ventura County Jail is that the process of contacting a loved one remains efficient.

According to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, outside members of the community can purchase blocks of emails.

Ten emails cost $10, plus an additional processing fee of $1.50.

According to an article in the Ventura County Star, Linda Oksner, a commander with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, believes this program will be beneficial to the operation of the jail.

“We’re doing this to create efficiencies and speed up communication between the community and inmates,” said Oksner in the article.

Many people are curious as to how the process works, but are also curious about the possibility of introducing this new form of communication to the inmates.

A student, who asked that their name not be published, has had experience with the jail and thinks this new program could be helpful in contacting loved ones.

“Writing letters took forever. If it came down to being able to email, he could write out exactly what he needed to say instead of squeezing everything into a 15 minute phone call,” said the student.

The student saw first-hand how communication can be a struggle when a father was facing a jail sentence.

Although the program is designed to be an efficient method of communication, it poses security risks.

“I do not agree with outside individuals having the ability to contact inmates via email. They are inmates and are supposed to be in custody as a form of discipline,” Los Angeles County Jail Deputy Sheriff Monte McCubbin said in an email.

He explained how this allows communication between gang members and inmates at other facilities that could result in the continuation of criminal activity.

“There is a huge business being run from within custody and communication is key. Email would just be another medium to be abused for criminal activity,” said McCubbin.

There are strict regulations that must be abided by when dealing with regular mail, but will these regulations be kept in tact when dealing with email?

Unlike physical mail, only text equivalent to one page will be allowed in the initial phases of this program, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

The inmates will receive a printed copy of the email, as opposed to seeing it on a computer screen.

The program is designed not only to ease the process of contact, but to also make a profit for the jail as well.

This profit will be used toward operational costs and credit card processing fees. Any additional profit will be directed towards education, vocation and recreation within the facilities, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

Sophomore Dana Henjum believes that all aspects of this new form of communication must be considered.

“The same restrictions that apply to physical mail should be used when dealing with email, including the risk-to-cost ratio,” said Henjum.

With email easily accessible, people might be more inclined to contact inmates.

With the abundance, how thoroughly will authorities read over the emails before passing them on to the inmates?

“We have the capability to automate scanning email for key words to alert us, but inmates figure out ways to hide the actual message. They do things such as creating a word by taking certain position characters from multiple words,” said McCubbin.

With technology rapidly advancing, this may open the doors to other methods of communications, eventually leading to a more successful route of contact that poses less risk.

“Maybe a situation where inmates can sit down and are offered Skype,” said Russell Stockard, communications professor at CLU. “Face, voice [and] audio; [it] doesn’t take as much monitoring. It’s a short term stay. I just don’t see why they need to move heaven and earth to ease the process.”

With new forms of communication emerging constantly, it is always necessary to ensure that we are closely monitoring how it is being used, whether inside a jail cell or out in the real world.

 

Holly Dunn
Staff Writer
Published Feb. 27, 2013

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