Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Regional jail expands visitation opportunities — virtually

Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail (WYDaily/Andrew Harris)
Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail (WYDaily/File photo)

Video chats have become a common way to communicate with family and friends across the world — now, it’s possible even when that family member or friend is in jail.

The Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, at 9320 Merrimac Trail, has expanded its visitation opportunities by offering video chat technology through tablets in the housing units, according to a news release from the facility.

Using the tablets, inmates can see and talk with their family members without needing to go to a visitation booth or wait for their housing unit’s specific visitation day and time, jail Superintendent Tony Pham told WYDaily in April.

“This technology has been introduced at other jails around the nation, including here in Virginia, with a great deal of success and we’re looking forward to replicating that here at VPRJ,” Pham said in the news release.

The tablets aren’t only for video chats: Inmates can also receive photos and email-style messages from their loved ones.

Like phone calls, the video chats are recorded and monitored by jail staff. Photos that are sent through the tablets to inmates are also monitored to ensure they are not profane or explicit.

The tablets are provided by Global Tel*Link and help reduce the amount of paper used by helping inmates access their request and grievance forms, the inmate handbook, reentry information and the legal law library, FastCase.

“These tablet devices provide several benefits to both jail staff and inmates,” Pham said. “Inmates are able to access several forms of vetted entertainment to keep them occupied, and also communicate with their loved ones. They can also communicate digitally with specific staff members via the tablet regarding questions they may have or requests they have submitted, thus making our processes both efficient and accountable.”

On Mother’s Day weekend, the jail gave a free five-minute video visit via the tablet to every inmate at the jail, according to the news release.

Generally, each video call costs 25 cents per minute.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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