Rhea may offer ATM for inmate accounts

Rhea may offer ATM for inmate accounts

April 10th, 2011 by By Kimberly McMillian/Correspondent in News

DAYTON, Tenn.-Inmates at the Rhea County Jail may have access to an automated cashier kiosk by summer if county officials give the OK.

Brian Piacek, service center manager with Swanson Services Corp. in Norcross, Ga., told members of the county's Purchase and Finance Committee on Wednesday that the Swanson's Cobra Cashier lobby kiosk would "save [the county] money."

Piacek said the automated machine would mean the jail wouldn't have to have someone on duty to process cash receipts when inmates withdraw money or families add to commissary accounts.

Committee members expressed concern about who would monitor the transactions.

"No one would have the responsibility for [handling] money except for us," Piacek said. "Your responsibility will be gone."

The company has a nationwide toll-free number so money can be put into the account at any time.

All transactions would print out a receipt, Piacek said.

Pam Hixson, bookkeeper at the Rhea County Sheriff's Office, told committee members that counterfeit money orders had caused problems in the past, and she thought the kiosk would help with that issue.

"We're stuck because the money's gone" if an inmate receives money from a counterfeit money order before transferring to the state penitentiary or being discharged, she said.

The kiosk rejects counterfeit or nondetectable currency and posts to inmates' accounts in real time, according to a company brochure.

Purchase and Finance Vice Chairman Tommy Snyder said the county would need to consult with attorney Carol Ann Barron about the four-year contract for an authorization to proceed with the purchase, and that it could take several weeks before they decide.

Hixson said a $2.75 charge is incurred for processing each transaction manually, and a 15 percent fee is charged if there's a debt owed for transportation to and from a doctor's office and for outstanding commissary charges.

Inmates can accumulate a $15 doctor fee, a $10 prescription charge and $25 for transport fees, she said, and the in-house machine would "cut out the cost of receipt books."

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bellsouth.net.