SIDNEY — The primary method to visit inmates at the Shelby County Jail has recently changed. Inmates can now receive visitations through online video technology from their jail pods.
Traditionally, inmate visitation has only been held face to face on Sunday and Thursday, or on Monday for a fee, at the Shelby County Jail separated by a thick, glass barrier. Visitors and inmates can not touch each other, or hear one another other without the use of an old-style phone connected by a cord.
Face to face, in-person visitations at the jail are still available on Monday evenings, only, for a $5 fee per 15 minutes. Male inmates can receive visitors from 6 to 8 p.m., and females can have visitors from 8 to 9 p.m. on Mondays.
All other inmate visitations, after Monday, Nov. 5, are only available via video visitation. Video visitations are available Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The jail initially implemented the Homewav System video technology on Oct. 24.
“There is one unit in each pod right now, and if it is successful, then Homewav would like to look at putting in more kiosks, but since we are just getting started, we are going to see how it goes,” said Karla Pleiman, Shelby County Jail administrator.
A jail pod is a section of the jail that contains inmates’ cells and a communal space where inmates spend time when not locked down in their cells.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, inmates can receive up to 30 minutes of free visitation per week. Inmates at the Shelby County Jail will now be using the video technology for their free visitation time.
For those who do not have access to the internet, free and paid video visitation is available through a kiosk in the lobby of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
The technology allows inmates to visit with children, and family members who are unable to travel or live a distance away. One of the biggest advantages to the system for inmates, Pleiman said, is for parents to be able to visit with their children. Children under 12 are prohibited from visiting at the Shelby County Jail.
Samantha Striff, of Sidney, who is serving time at Shelby County Jail for a probation violation, demonstrated how the system works for the Sidney Daily News during a tour of the jail.
“I’ve been using it since it was first available, video chat, to call my boyfriend. So far it’s pretty good. The only issues I’ve really had with it, is, it does lag a little bit, but other than that, it’s great to be able to see family at home,” Striff said.
Video visitations cost family members a $2 fee to set the account up, and then 25 cents a minute.
A lot of jails are switching to video visitation to cut down on the movement of inmates, which makes the jail a safer place, Pleiman said.
Shelby County Chief Deputy Jim Frye said they had been thinking about making the change to video visitations for a while, but after he and Sheriff John Lenhart learned about Homewav, and their system’s lower costs versus other providers, at a conference in Louisiana last summer, they decided to give it a try.
The jail had no out of pocket expense for the equipment to implement Homewav’s system. The jail’s only cost is for the cables to connect the system. Homewav profits 80 percent of the revenue and the jail gets the other 20 percent.
Pleiman said the money the jail makes will go toward paying for the wires, which cost about $7,000. After the cables are paid, revenue will go to programs or inmate needs at the jail, she said.
Inmates can not only visit with family and friends with the kiosks, but they can also be used for medical or commissary requests or to access a law library.
Video visitations can be watched live by jail staff or be reviewed later, Frye said. The same rules apply as with face to face visits and staff will warn of inappropriate behavior with messages on the screen for both parties to see. Also, the background can be blurred out so only the inmate can be seen if a parent is visiting with a child, for example.
The system will also used as an incentive for good behavior, as privileges can be taken away, Pleiman noted.
“It will cut down on inmate confrontations,” Pleiman said. “It’s actually working out wonderful for the jail as well because there is a lot less movement of the inmates throughout the facility with the help of the kiosks.”
She said they gave a two week period of time from implementation to give the inmates’ families notice that the face to face visits were changing after Nov. 5.
Video visitations with inmates are by appointment. For more information or to schedule a video visitation, visit www.homewav.com or call 844-394-6639.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.