By mid-March, friends and family of inmates at the Napa County Jail will visit using video and the Internet, thanks to a video visitation system. Similar to popular Internet applications such as FaceTime and Skype, the video visitation program provides the opportunity for family and friends to connect with inmates regardless of distance and with more flexibility in scheduling.
Through an agreement approved earlier this week by the Board of Supervisors, Securus Technologies, Inc. of Dallas, TX, will provide and maintain the hardware and software in the jail at no cost to the County. Video terminals will be located in the housing units, for the inmates’ use, and in the jail visiting areas, for visitors, eliminating the need to physically move inmates to the visiting area. Visitors will also be able to use the system, for a fee, anywhere they have access to a computer terminal and the Internet.
Currently, visitors and inmates meet face to face, separated by a glass partition and talking on a telephone. That setup will still be available for attorney visits, but will no longer be used for visits by friends and family. Instead, visitors who previously were limited by distance, transportation issues, and/or disability can have face-to-face visits with inmates over the Internet, which will likely increase the total number of visits overall.
“A video visitation program is a ‘best practice’ in managing a modern jail,” said Lenard Vare, Napa County Director of Corrections. “It is safer, for inmates, correctional officers and visitors, because we are limiting the movement of people around the jail and there is less opportunity for physical confrontation. It is easier for friends and family to actually see and talk with an inmate, because distance is no longer a factor, and we can allow greater flexibility in scheduling visits. We will no longer have to worry about visitors trying to pass contraband to inmates. Finally, studies show that online video visitation systems allow inmates to have more contact with friends and family, allowing them to strengthen and maintain community ties that help them be successful once they leave jail.”
By State law, each inmate is allowed at least one hour per week of visiting time. There will be no charge to visitors who use the on-site terminals at the Jail, as long as the inmate has not reached that one hour allotment. If the weekly allotment has been reached, any additional on-site visits will be charged at a rate of $20 for 20 minutes. That same fee applies to all Internet-based visits, regardless of whether the hour has been exceeded or not. A portion of the proceeds from video visitation sessions will support the Inmate Welfare Fund in providing essential goods and services to inmates during incarceration.
The Jail and Securus will provide extensive outreach materials to inmates and visitors to help them understand the new system, and Securus will provide customer service to ensure that users are able to access and use the service.