Visitation by video soon will be an option at the Summit County Jail.
That means if family or friends can’t get to the jail, they can visit an inmate from the comfort of their home.
They will need a computer for a video visit, which jail officials say will be similar to using Skype.
“The video visitation is a technology upgrade to our current inmate phone system,” sheriff’s office spokesman Bill Holland said in a recent interview. “The company [Inmate Calling Solutions] is going to install the $300,000 worth of equipment at no cost to us. They will take a small part of the usage fee for the next few years to pay for the equipment.”
The sheriff’s office will receive 72 percent of the revenue after the vendor receives its equipment fee. The county’s surplus will go to Summit’s general fund.
The cost for the video visits will be the responsibility of the people at home.
“They will have to register a credit card with the company and set up an account. The company will then set up a time for a video visit with the inmate,” Holland said. “It will cost $10 for 15 minutes and $15 for 30 minutes.”
The number of video visits will be based on availability of the video stations and people’s ability to pay. Summit County Council approved the video chats last week. Visits could begin by July 1.
The video visits will not replace face-to-face visits. Currently, visits at the jail for an inmate are allowed once a week. They are free and can last a maximum of 30 minutes.
Inmates get to decide whom they want visiting them. Visitation at the jail is from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Phone calls cost 15 cents per minute, or inmates can make collect calls.
Some visitors at the Summit County Jail said they have no interest in the video visits because they don’t have a computer, but others applauded the idea.
“The cost would be worth it and it would save us a 20-minute drive,” said Steve McCurdy, 50, of New Franklin, who came with his wife, Diane. “We have a computer with a webcam so we can stay home and visit.”
Miranda Forsythe, 23, of Akron, said the cost of the video visit would probably even out because gas is so expensive.
“The videos would make the visit better,” Forsythe said. “When you visit in person you can barely hear each other and you can’t touch them anyway because of the glass divider. At least by video you could hear each other.”
Her friend, Shannon Odum, 31, who also makes weekly visits, said with the personal visits all you really get to do is say hello and goodbye because of all the waiting prior to the visit.
Another visitor said staffing at the jail is a problem.
“The video visitations would be better. I wasn’t able to get my last two visits because there was not enough staff to cover the visitations. They were overbooked,” said Lezetta Brown, 47.
But after learning the cost of the newly offered video visits, she said she would still come in person and add an additional visit by video once a month.
Holland said the video stations will be set up like the on-site visitations with partitions. They will also be in a different area from where the video monitors are set up for court appearances.
“There are only two other counties in Ohio — Montgomery and Warren in the southwestern portion of the state — who have plans to use the video technology and fewer than 200 jails in the country who use video visitations,” county Jail Administrator Chief Greg Macko said. “The video visits will help free up workers, which will improve the use of our jail staff who supervise the face-to-face visits. It will also help to reduce security risks.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.