DECATUR, Ga. – The policy is written on signs in front of the jail that are plain as day: No cell phones are allowed, not even for the guards themselves.
So if that’s the case, how did some inmates record an amateur rap music video while incarcerated?
Several men were seen dancing and gesturing as a rap song played in the background. The video is called “Thuggin’ Live From DeKalb Jail,” on YouTube. The jail is just east of downtown Atlanta.
Most people CBS46 spoke to outside the jail thought for certain that a visitor must have snuck a cell phone past security and either gave it to the inmates or recorded the video during the visit. But it turns out, the video was not made with a cell phone. The person who recorded it was nowhere near the jail at the time.
They were having the equivalent of a Skype conversation on a computer. It’s a video phone call that inmates are regularly allowed to make from inside the secure facility. The jail said it doesn’t matter who the inmate is or what crimes they’ve committed. Anyone serving time in the DeKalb County Jail can have one of the video visitations.
This time it was a harmless music video, but the notion of recording these calls opens up a series of possibilities. Videos could possibly surface on the internet promoting illegal activity.
Jail administration would not provide the names of the inmates involved or tell CBS46 what they are in jail for.
The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department was too embarrassed about the situation to speak on camera, but they did issue the following written press release:
DeKalb County Jail authorities confirm that a citizen utilizing the jail’s remote online visitation system – an inmate service provided for their convenience in communicating with attorneys, family and friends – has posted a video of the call on social media.
“Taking advantage of this service is not tolerated,” says Sheriff Jeff Mann. “Our policies do not allow inmates to use this service to communicate directly with the general public – only with individuals who have been registered and approved as visitors. Blasting the contents of a call on social media violates that policy and will result in the appropriate disciplinary measures. The inmates involved will no longer have remote online visitation privileges, and the citizen who placed the call is banned from jail visitation privileges.”
Video visitation is the technology that is rapidly replacing face-to-face visits between inmates and family or friends. The DeKalb County Jail instituted its system in 2013 to allow inmates to visit with individuals they select without having to be transported from their housing units. The system improves security and cuts expenses for jail operations. It also lets inmates communicate online with individuals who have been approved for that option. The visitation center at the jail provides a comfortable environment for conversations between visitors and inmates. All calls are electronically monitored.
“In this instance, an inmate, in cooperation with an online remote visitor, chose to use the online remote calling feature to show himself and his fellow inmates dancing and removing their clothing, “added Sheriff Mann. “They also chose to show that they had somehow acquired contraband. What likely began as an offense with minimal disciplinary repercussions then became a serious misconduct for which there are severe penalties. So we hope they enjoyed their ’15 minutes of fame’.”
Although instructions and disclaimers are provided to inmate visitors who register to use the online visitation feature, officials are reviewing existing monitoring operations to minimize future breaches. In 2014, there were 31,411 on-site and 4,114 remote visitation sessions at the DeKalb County Jail.