News Channel 5
by Adam Ghassemi
GALLATIN, Tenn. – Malcolm Branham is an inmate in the Sumner County Jail. He’s been in custody for eight months facing drug charges and waiting on his court day.
“You get lonely up here, you know,” he said.
Recently the days seem to be going by faster thanks to a new device just steps from his cell. Branham gets to video chat with his fiancé on a system called HomeWav for up to 20 minutes at a time.
It works like Skype or FaceTime, but everything they say is recorded and monitored. The person the inmate calls can see them on a laptop, tablet or smartphone from anywhere.
Branham says they’ve even used it to go shopping.
“Like if she sees something she likes and wants to know my opinion on it she takes the iPhone and shows me on the Skype and says what do you think about this?,” he said.
It may seem like an incredible luxury, but there’s a thought behind it. Corrections officials say inmates having access to their own support groups could keep them from coming back.
“Allowing them to stay in touch with their friends and family, well that’s very important to their incarceration and to the rehabilitation as well,” said Major Don Linzy of the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office.
HomeWav isn’t cheap. At $0.50 per minute, every 20 minute call costs $10. Messages are $1 each.
But it may be a better deal than traveling to the jail weekly, or bringing children.
“Instead of them having a picture in their head of their father being in jail they’re just having a picture of their father basically on the phone and talking to them,” Linzy said.
Like anything behind bars the service is a privilege that can be taken away. That’s something Branham keeps in mind while focusing on getting out and back to the person he loves.
“It’s more convenient. It’s just more convenient. It makes you feel like you’re at home,” he said.
Sumner County officials say they have the largest jail in the state equipped with HomeWav, and the company installed all of the 48 stations they have for free.
Under the agreement, HomeWav gets 70% of all call charges, while the remaining 30% going back to the county. That means it not only saves on staffing, but also offsets the jail’s high cost.