From Op rah to Benton County Jail, Skype gains in popularity - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

From Oprah to Benton County Jail, Skype gains in popularity

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It's a tool that seems to have taken on a life of its own. Even Oprah uses Skype on almost every show and at the Benton County Jail, technicians tell say the Skype visitation service was one of the first of its kind in any jail across the country.

Over the past year it has become one of the most popular ways for inmates and families to stay connected, and one technician says he has seen the benefits of this system first hand.

"The big benefit is for the people who don't live here in the Tri-Cities area," Dan Waggoner said. "If they're in Seattle or anywhere in the country or anywhere in the world for that matter, they can visit their relative, loved one, friend in the jail that otherwise they would never be able to see."

In order for the program to work, family members on the outside schedule an appointment then wait by their computers for a Skype call from the jail. Workers say this program is also saving the jail money by eliminating the need for officers to escort inmates for face-to-face visits.