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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - "LaPorte County jail now offers video visitation" - some complaints

From Gabrielle Gonzalez' story in the LaPorte Herald Argus:

La PORTE - Visitation at the La Porte County Jail will become more convenient and reliable for visitors and jail staff.

A new kiosk system for video visitation has been installed in a former storage closet at the jail and has been running for about two weeks with only minor glitches.

"It's been a goal of mine to have video visitation since 2007," said La Porte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer. "There have been minor glitches but really, it has been working good. We are excited to have gotten this accomplished."

Since the kiosks have been installed, there have been more than 70 video visits.

Each jail cell block has a touch screen kiosk for the inmate to use. Officers will no longer have to transport each inmate to the visiting lobby on the fourth floor. Mollenhauer said this helps the safety of the jail for the officers who will not have to transport the inmates. He said this will also help the officers in the jail utilize their time more efficiently.

There are eight kiosks available for visitors to use in the visitation room. Two people can visit the inmate at a time. The visitor and inmate speak through a phone receiver and can view one another on the video screen.

Visitors make an appointment and then receive a pin number. The screen has a touch system where you can schedule an appointment to visit or call the other line when at the scheduled visit. Inmates can also view their visiting times, which are scheduled 24 hours in advance.

Visitors have one free visitation a week when they come to the jail. Visitors can also use the online visitation at the convenience of their home.

Account Manager Michael Stump of Securus, the visitation program company, said if the weather is bad, if it is too hard to get to the jail or if someone lives out of town, they can visit with the inmate online. * * *

Video visitation is monitored and recorded to make sure visitors and inmates act appropriately. Two additional cameras will be installed in the visitation room to make sure visits are conducted appropriately or visitation will be banned for the inmate.

The cost for the online visit is $20 for 20 minutes. The jail has a special until Jan. 15. Online visitation until that date is $5.

Attorneys can also use the video visitation as well. Attorney visits will not be recorded.

Mollenhauer said the project has taken a few years to complete due its high cost. The video visitation system is being paid for by the inmates through the commissary fund.

Here is the photo of the system accompanying the story.

From a second Herald-Argus story:

According to the sheriff’s department, one of the advantages of the video visitation system is that the public no longer has to travel to the jail and wait in line for visitation.

Instead, they can schedule visits online and visit remotely when it is convenient for them.

In addition, the new system has allowed La Porte County Jail staff to expand visitation hours while significantly reducing the burden on staff when conducting visitation sessions.

“The new video visitation system has created significant operational efficiencies for staff,” said Capt. Michael Kellems, jail commander. “We no longer have to use resources escorting the public and inmates to the visitation center, which often involved two or three deputies.”

Kellems continued, “An added advantage is that the risk of contraband entering the jail is virtually eliminated as the public will no longer be entering restricted areas of the jail and can instead choose to visit from the lobby visitation center or remotely, which is more convenient for all.”

But, from an April 5th story in the South Bend Tribune by Stan Maddux:
But despite the convenience, some families of loved ones in the jail are opposed to the new plan, preferring the current practice of face-to-face visits.

''Having it on video, that takes everything away from us,'' said Robert Smith, 46, of Michigan City, who was at the jail Wednesday to visit his son, Robert Smith Jr. * * *

Loved ones will have to buy a camera for their computer in order to take part in the video visitation. And even though face-to-face visits will be eliminated, the sheriff said, loved ones can still go to the jail for visitation. They will use a kiosk that will be provided at no charge inside a visitation room on the main level.

Some family members of inmates said they don't have a personal computer and can't afford one. They also don’t like the option of going to the jail and using the kiosk, even at no cost.

''I have to get on a TV screen — it's garbage,'' said 24-year-old LaPorte resident Jared Bealor, who was at the jail to visit his brother, Lucas.

The $20 fee also was not popular with family members such as 23-year-old Michelle Stoever, of LaPorte, who complained about the fees already charged by the jail to speak with loved ones on the telephone.

''I think they just want money out of us,'' she said.

Mollenhauer said all video visits will be recorded so that anyone doing things such as exposing body parts will be caught and their visitation rights permanently revoked.

''If they do anything out of the ordinary, they will never visit again. They monitor it real close,'' Mollenhauer said.

The county spent about $400,000 over the last six years installing the wiring needed to operate video visitation, he added, noting that that money was taken out of a fund derived from the sale of snacks and other products offenders can buy from the jail commissary.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 20, 2013 04:22 PM
Posted to Indiana Government