The Washington County Jail has added 21 kiosks to allow inmates to make video calls to family members.

Michael Clapp / OPB

Washington County Courthouse

It's not just about helping them maintain family ties -- authorities will also monitor conversations in an effort to solve crimes.

Last year, the county allowed inmates to write letters again -- after a court overturned a rule that only allowed postcards.

But now the jail is going the other way -- allowing more communication -- with video kiosks.

Sergeant Bob Ray says just like postcards, letters and phone calls, authorities will be checking the videos.

"People can call them. They can call anyone they choose and obviously we'll monitor it and make sure that it falls within the policies of the jail. But we think it's going to be a great program."

The new Telemate system doesn't cost taxpayers a penny. Inmates pay about $10 for a 30-minute conversation.

The company's webpage says the system can be used to stop drug dealers and gang associates from maintaining their operation, intimidating witnesses or coordinating the disposal of evidence, while in jail.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.