Magazine article Corrections Forum

VIDEO Visitation

Magazine article Corrections Forum

VIDEO Visitation

Article excerpt

On September 12, 2012, the District of Columbia jail began a program that made all visitation visits conducted virtually from an adjacent building. Male and juvenile inmates are allowed two 45 -minute social visits a week, and, bucking a trend, those visits are free. (Visitation for female inmates and attorneys remain the same and is not done virtually.) According to the DOC, the change will have positive impacts on visitation. Instead of 200 visits a day, the facility will be able to conduct 400. Visitors will no longer have to undergo pat-downs and searches, and additional minors will be able to attend as well, provided they are under constant adult supervision. The facility is further planning on expanding access to the system via places such as libraries and community and recreational centers. They are also exploring the option of the use of in-home access using personal computers, a trend that is rapidly growing itself.

Video visitation improves security by not requiring inmates to be moved to the visiting room. It is a barrier for contraband infiltration into the facility by visitors. It saves time for visitors to avoid standing in line and for security not to have to search them as they file into the facility. It can also generate revenue. Correctional facilities have been quick to embrace the technology.

Many of the recent technological advancements can be found in the software. For facilities that use video visitation, a correctional dorm will have a certain number of units, and visits can be scheduled in several ways. A visitor could set up an account and propose a visit. He or she will then hear back if the visit is approved. If a facility has the auto attendant set up, a visitor could call in and schedule a visit through a set of prompts. A visitor could also directly call the clerk, or he or she could participate in a visit from home through the Internet.

Nathan Skipper, VP of Quality and Software Solutions at Montgomery Technology, Inc., a Greenville, Alabama-based video visitation manufacturer, attests to the amazing strides the technology has made in the past 15 years. MTI was among the first to develop an IP-based video visitation system. An IP-based system is peer-to-peer, which means that the system is not server dependent and allows the option for an inmate to be connected with administrative software with someone in a visitor unit. The only thing that is needed is the network between the two units.

Recently, furthers Skipper, people have been pushing for Webbased visitation, what MTI calls "from-home" visitation. The feature allows for a visitor to schedule a visit from his or her home computer. Most of the decision-making process is handled by the software, which means less labor, and the fact that the visits are done from home means less brick and mortar. MTI's system can also be used as a document presentation system that can be used to display things such as inmate handbooks, inmate orientation videos, the next day's schedule, etc.

Plethora of Options

Among the appeal of video visitation is the plethora of options available. For technical savvy facilities that wish to maintain complete control over their visitation system, MTI also offers facilities the expertise and the tools needed to design a video visitation system on their own. This DIY visitation is made possible due to three things: a simple peer-to-peer design; a cuttingedge video conferencing software that allows for the strict controls and can be installed on most Windows-based computers; and free technical support for the life of the product, as well as free training.

The recent software offers are not relegated to strictly video visitation. The platform differentiates the systems and offers the capability to manage all visitation types using the same software. Brian Peters, director, Customer Accounts and Marketing of Minneapolis-based Renovo Software, Inc., explains how Renovo offers software to manage face-to-face, Web-based and traditional on-site video visitation. …

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