view, the disapproved brother took his place. The system detected the switch and prevented anything from transpiring. Currently Black Creek is working on facial recognition to further enhance fail safes. Not only is visitation made possible for visitors, it is also possible to use in investigations. As Shu points out, in a road rage incident in Douglasville, Ga., 23year-old Dewey Green rear-ended a family at a stoplight. When Janice Pitts exited her Navigator to investigate, Green repeatedly ran her over as her horrified daughter and grandson looked on. The defense proposed that Green had suffered head trauma in the accident and suffered a seizure despite the fact that the crash was light enough that the airbags didn’t deploy. During his trial, prosecutors introduced evidence of Green on a video visitation with his girlfriend as he danced around, said he was fine, and even did “the worm.” As a result, he was convicted to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 40 years.
Reentry Assistance Not only is video visitation convenient, it can be therapeutic. A Securus Technologies spokesman points out that the U.S. realizes a 60%-70% recidivism rate, and the company is trying to help with that. They have been studying the metrics, which show that inmates’ chance of successfully reentering society increases significantly when inmates are able to see friends and family. In February 2017, the organization appointed a director of Recidivism and Reentry to assist in the matter. Securus Technologies offers apps for both Android and Apple devices that allow for inmates to visit with relatives without the relatives having to travel, which can be a financial or physical challenge. Video visitation offers numerous advantages. It can eliminate long lines of visitors, manu24 CORRECTIONS FORUM • JULY/AUGUST 2017
ally manage visitation schedules, increase focus on the safety and security of inmates, officers, and the public. Securus Video Visitation is a fully web-based visitation system that allows friends, family members, attorneys, and public officials to schedule and participate in video visitation sessions with an inmate from anywhere with Internet access using a smartphone, tablet, or PC. Traditional visitation requires COs to escort inmates from their pods to visitation areas. Those COs must remain constantly alert. No one can predict what an inmate will do, and what if the visit doesn’t go well? The visitation process offers benefits for the facility. In a busy lobby, people wait impatiently, and getting in line early to visit can add to that. Staff members are burdened with scheduling visits and determining inmate availability. New visitation lists are routinely hand delivered to housing units as schedules change. There are extensive screening processes for visiting family members. Visitors may struggle to hear loved ones in a loud environment. Remote visitation offers longer visits and can extend visiting hours without adding extra work for staff. Video visitation systems manage schedules without staff intervention and can schedule multiple visits and multiple visitors at once regardless of travel restrictions. Visits can be conducted in quiet and private settings and have increased visitation hours. Brian Deuster, product manager, Video Initiatives, at Reston, Va.- based GTL points out that video visitation technology can particularly benefit small children who may be negatively affected by a visit to a corrections facility. Video visitation eliminates the crowds, the security, the pat downs, going through metal detectors, and having to wait for extended periods of time. Using video visitation, family members can see and speak with an incarcerated loved one more
often and from the convenience of their own home. The Douglas County Department of Corrections in Omaha, Neb., recently adopted GTL’s video visitation technology, including the online scheduling function. Deuster says that staff report that the online scheduling function reduces labor costs and increases convenience and safety for everyone inside the facility. Visitors can conveniently schedule visitations online or at a kiosk in the facility’s lobby at no cost. There is, however, a backlash to video visits. In California, for instance, Governor Brown in June approved the state’s 2017 budget along with a measure that stops jails from continuing to replace in-person visitation with video calling and gives inmate families their first hour of video visitations each week for free. It is reported by HBO’s Vice News that some prisoner advocates are supporting the ability to continue face-to-face visits. The Prison Policy Initiative estimates that 600 facilities in 46 states have implemented video visitation and 74 percent of jails that implement the technology eliminate in-person visits. Some family and friends feel the Skype-like visits are less personal. And video calls aren’t cheap either: one estimate says a call from home can cost $9 per half hour, which can create a struggle to pay that Vice News says is devastating families. As many as one in three families go into debt trying to stay in touch, they say. Money talks. There is a financial case for remote video visitation when considering the number of officers needed to transport inmates, staff the lobby, answer questions, and schedule future visits. Video visitation offers an alternative to be able to redeploy staff and officers to work on other functions. In addition, the fee for the video call finances inmate programs. One company spokesman sums it up: “Pretty much everything we do saves money for the facility.” ✪
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