With attorneys and loved ones prohibited from visiting detainees at the Tulsa County Jail due to the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office says it is waiving video visitation fees for communications between attorneys and clients in custody.
The Tulsa County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved an amendment to the county’s contract with Tech Friends, Inc., the Arkansas-based company that manages the jail’s video visitation system.
Tulsa defense attorney James Wirth said that while the fees being waived is a good thing, videoconferencing also complicates the attorney-client relationship.
"Somebody in custody, that’s already a difficult circumstance," Wirth said. "You want to have the person feel like everything is going to be privileged and protected and that’s difficult to do when everything’s going through their phone system that’s monitored and recorded."
A spokesperson for the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office said that the fees have been waived for attorney-client communications since late March. The amendment approved by the Board of County Commissioners says the communications will be confidential "to protect the due process of law."
Wirth said he recognizes that the county jail staff and leadership have difficult job, and that they are taking steps to address the pandemic, but says that ultimately no one will know if Tulsa County took adequate measures until after the crisis is over.
"As far as whether they're doing enough? I'm not sure," Wirth said. "They're at least doing some things. But usually in these circumstances, we won’t know until hindsight whether it was enough."