Washington’s Department of Corrections (DOC) has implemented a program for inmate visitation via video conferencing, and its new Video Visitation Center began operations on July 25, 2012.
Washington Mayor Vincent Gray (D) unveiled the DOC’s plan to move forward with inmate visitation via video conferencing and direct visitors to visit inmates from the department’s state-of-the-art Video Visitation Center, located within the DC General Hospital complex.
“I’m excited to announce this new visitation technology, because it will significantly streamline visitor check-in, improve the management of inmate visitation and improve safety and accessibility for (inmate) family members and friends,” Gray said. “It’s the right solution for our visitors, incarcerated persons and staff members at the DC Jail.”
The DOC has contracted the Mobile, Ala. company Global Tel*Link—the department’s current provider of inmate telephone service—to implement the video visitation program. GTL says the DOC can benefit from the video-visitation technology the firm has implemented in large and small jails across the country.
The video technology facilitates an increased number of daily visits, with the DOC saying the technology will double inmate visits from 200 per day to 400, as well as reduce congestion and long lines for visitors, eliminate the need for invasive security measures (such as pat-downs and frisking) and cut down on security-related and staffing costs.
In addition, the DOC has posted instructions on its website for visiting inmates using the new system. The website says visitors have the option of signing up with the DOC through its website “to schedule and manage upcoming visits with your inmate,” or over the telephone
By scheduling a visit online, visitors “can select the date, time and location that is most convenient,” have the visit “confirmed instantly” and “skip the long lines,” the DOC says. When a visitation is approved, visitors report to the Video Visitation Center on the specified day to confirm their appointments and begin visiting after being assigned a video station.
DOC Director Thomas Faust says the new system will improve facility security and reduce opportunities to smuggle contraband into the jail. “I view implementation of video visitation as another step toward improving operational efficiency within the DC Jail,” he said.