When the doors of the Winnebago County Jail slam shut inmates' families get left out in the cold. But a new system is making it easier and safer for inmates to see their families.
On Christmas day dozens of people flocked to the jail to send their season's greetings.
"Hi Merry Christmas daddy," says one little girl.
"It's not the best, but still it's good to be able to be here and it's nice that they had the place open where people could come in and visit their loved ones," says Nancy Bracelton, the mother of an inmate.
Inmates can now talk to and see their families through closed-circuit TV's. The system has been in place since the new justice center opened in July and jail employees say it allows 60 visitors in at a time, versus ten in the old jail. They also say it solves some security difficulties.
"Where at the previous facility, inmates were removed from their housing units to go to visitations such as this, now they're able to stay inside their housing unit and be monitored by their housing unit officer while they're having their visit," says Sgt. Kevin Dailey.
It used to be that visitors saw their loved ones in person with a pane of glass separating them, instead of a TV screen. But Bracelton doesn't find the new system any more impersonal. She says, "No I think it's better this way, I like it this way better."
Of course it's still not quite how families would like to spend their christmas.
"I wish I could hug daddy," says Bracelton's grandaughter.
Besides the new video visitation, the 142 million dollar Winnebago County Justice Center is equipped with the latest in technogy including camera surveillance all over the building.