FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — Aside from meetings with their attorneys, inmates at the Allen County jail will get no more face-to-face visits with friends and family but jail commanders claim it’s a win-win.
Jailers spent 5,000 man hours last year transferring inmates to and from visiting rooms.
To use the officers for other duties, and help keep them safe, visits are now conducted through video monitors in the jail lobby.
“Every time that we bring inmates out of the cell and bring them down in this area there’s always a chance — we take a risk with our officers and the public in here — inmates seeing inmates that maybe they don’t get along with in passing,” Deputy Chief Gary Grant says.
Instead of one visit every two weeks or once a month, inmates now get one free 25-minute video visit from the jail lobby every week. — any more will cost $10 a visit, up to three a day, including from home.
All video visitors have to be registered and approved, then can schedule visits online from the jail’s website, 24 hours ahead of time.
“With this, the children have more of an opportunity to see a parent, older brother, sister, whatever,” Grant says.
“I came down here in the past and there’d be people everywhere. You’ve got to stand in line and you’ve got to go through all kinds of processes, so I think that’s pretty good,” Pearl Johnson says.
“I’ve been on both sides, so it gets frustrating not being able to see people you want to see or because of the restrictions here, not being able to talk to your loved ones the way you want to or as often as you want to. So it does open up some doorways for people,” Susan Mason tells us.
Virginia-based GTL provides the service and archives the video in case it’s needed for evidence.
Just like phone calls, the chats are monitored so people don’t break the law.
Inmates can still meet in person with their lawyers.
“This gives a lot more flexibility to opening it up throughout the day and on the weekends and on different days. So that way if a person’s work schedule didn’t accommodate when the visits occurred, they were out of luck. Now they can schedule it for when they have available time,” says Inmate Communications Officer John Wiese.
Video visits are available seven days a week, from eight a.m. to noon, and three to eight p.m.