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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019 1:00 am

Jail turns to video chats for visits

Sheriff: Saves taxpayer money

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Visitors to the Allen County Jail can no longer meet face-to-face with inmates.

That's after the Allen County Sheriff's Department put in place an internet-based service that allows inmates to meet with friends and loved ones “in a set-up similar to Skype or FaceTime,” officials announced Monday.

Visitors had been able to meet with and see inmates through a glass partition. Now, family and friends can use the video chat function to talk to inmates, who are issued computer tablets.

The change will save money and improve security at the facility, Sheriff David Gladieux said in a statement.

“Video visitation will save the taxpayers money by eliminating approximately 5,000 additional officer hours a year that can be reallocated where needed,” he said. “It will also be more secure, since we are not moving inmates and visitors through the confinement facility.”

The video chat service is a growing trend in jails and prisons in the U.S. The nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative estimates 600 facilities across the country have similar services.

GTL, a Virginia-based company that installs jail and prison communication systems, provided the local video system. It also is the jail's telephone service provider.

The system – in place since Feb. 18 – allows for off-site video visits. Users can register online and video chat with inmates from home or anywhere with an internet connection.

Visitors who physically go to the jail and use technology onsite may communicate for free, but visitors who access inmates using technology offsite are charged.

It is not clear how much the chats cost or whether the jail receives a portion of the proceeds.

“GTL is focused on creating opportunities for inmates to stay engaged with their support systems through impactful and frequent connections,” said Curt Clifton, GTL's executive vice president..

More information about jail visits is available on the sheriff's department website, www.allencountysheriff.org.

mleblanc@jg.net