Video conferencing arrived in December 2011 at the Texas County Justice Center. At right is Michael Anderson, county prosecutor. 

After 43 people were incarcerated due to the recent multi-agency drug sweep in Texas County, the population in the jail at the justice center reached a new high.

Texas County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Melissa Dunn said that 104 inmates were in jail over the Labor Day weekend.

Arraignments for sweep arrestees were conducted electronically on Tuesday, with those charged appearing on screen in a courtroom while Judge John Wiggins, Prosecuting Attorney Mike Anderson and family members and friends looked on.

“Not one of them was removed from the cell block,” Dunn said. “They were taken into the visitors’ room and arraigned by Polycom.” The technology’s use is fairly new in Texas County.

Thanks to the technology, the flurry of arraignments took only a day, beginning at about 9 a.m. and concluding before 5 p.m.

“And that was including the regular court activity,” Dunn said. “As a security issue, moving that many people back and forth into an open courtroom wouldn’t have been practical. But they never left a secure area of the jail, and it saved so much time. We only have the three holding cells upstairs, and for safety reasons you can normally you can only take five at a time. Then you figure the amount of time it would take each one to appear individually in front of the judge. But this way everyone could see each other and hear each other and it offered time saving and security.

“It would have been a two-day process had we not done it by Polycom.”

During the arraignments, all 43 people charged in the roundup had their bonds reduced below the original amount of $350,000 per count. Jeff Mabrey, 41, of Houston (who was charged with one count of distribution), had his bond reduced to $100,000, six others had theirs dropped to $5,000, and the rest had theirs reduced to $2,500.

Following the reductions, 21 people bonded out: Daniel Duncan, Douglas Reeves, Hal Wallace, Arthur Huffman, Christina Brotherton, Jessica Brown, Craig Porter, Jessee Houston, William Keller, Michael Wilder, Dalton Backues, Evelyn Klein, James Woolsey, Dee Ann Morris, Jo Ann Korbus, Robert Korbus, Christina White, Dawn Lord, Kyle Lemasters, Karen Katzman, and Jennifer Royal.

Dunn said preparations made before the sweep helped the jail staff and facility (that has an official capacity of 72) handle the large number of inmates, and the situation went as smoothly as could be expected.

“It went really well,” Dunn said. “We had lots of cots in place before this happened, and the day after we made contact with a company in Jefferson City and picked up and extra 50 mattresses that cost only a dollar apiece and had them in place by the next evening. No one had to sleep on the floor – they all had a bunk or a mattress.

“And the kitchen staff kept with our regular menu – no one had to eat beans or soup. It took longer to get meals served, but it worked. And each wing in the jail has its own shower facility, so everyone was able to take care of themselves.”

On Wednesday morning, the jail roster was at 84. Dunn said about a third of that number could be attributed to the sweep.

Everyone arrested in the historic drug sweep was given a return court date of Nov. 6.

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