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New technology reduces paper flow at jail

A TurnKey kiosk is located in the lobby of the St. Croix County Jail. The machine makes it possible for friends and family of inmates to make deposits by cash or credit card to their commissary account. Deposits can also be made online and by smartphone with a credit card. The system started Jan. 2. Photo by Jon Echternacht

The St. Croix County Sheriff's department has turned to the technological advances of a local company to streamline commissary transactions and reduce paper flow.

TurnKey Corrections of Hudson has been awarded the commissary services contract for the jail. The company's technology includes kiosks installed in the jail's housing units. The kiosks allow inmates to order commissary items similar to using an ATM-touch-screen procedure. It allows inmates to view and make selections.

In addition, the units feature technology to submit requests to staff members from inmates such as to attend AA meetings or make an appointment with the nurse.

"The TurnKey Corrections system is really bringing us to the 21st century," said Lt. Gary Simacek. "The system, which includes inmate accounting software, will allow staff to spend less time on commissary and more time on jail operations." The kiosks are expected to greatly reduce paper flow at the jail.

The new system allows friends and family to provide commissary funds to inmates using Visa or MasterCard through the Internet or smartphones to make deposits. An electronic kiosk in the jail's lobby will accept credit cards or cash to make deposits.

The units were provided at no cost to the county, said Patrick McMullan, general sales manager at TurnKey. "It's wonderful to have St. Croix County Jail, our hometown jail facility, as a client and business partner," he said.

Sheriff John Shilts said the system will provide for video visits for inmates in the future. "It will provide for more visits and reduce the strain of the staff," Shilts said. "Now visits are limited to 20 minutes a week and there are so many people moving back and forth that the staff has to just about drop everything else to handle the situation."