Inmates in Travis County now will only be able to talk with visitors through video. The county launched their new online video visitation system Wednesday.Family or loved ones can now talk with inmates from home through their computer. No more in-person visits are allowed.
Video chatting online from a jail cell might seem like a privilege, but that’s not the intent of the “video visitation” implemented by the Travis County Jail systems. First, officials say it’s a matter safety.
“The inmate stays (in his or her cell,) they are secure,” said Roger Wade, Travis County Sheriff’s Office public information officer. “We don’t have to worry about anything happening to the inmate while they’re transported, or, if contraband may sneak its way into the system.”
He also said as the jail population grows, the visitation center at the Travis County correctional complex couldn’t handle the crowds.
Anyone can sign up for the online video visitation to talk to an inmate at SecurusTech.net. It costs $20 for 20 minutes, which is less than the $4 per minute an inmate paid for a phone call.
The installation of the system was paid for by Securus Technologies, Inc.
Official visits from attorneys are still allowed, but some defense lawyers say they’ll take advantage of the video conferencing.
“This is going to be much, much better in a lot of ways,” said Christina Pagano, a defense attorney.
She said $20 isn’t a big deal, if she can get more work done. “Time is money. It’s worth the $20. It’s really worth it.”
But others see a different picture. Defense attorney Benjamin Blackburn said the video visitation is another “erosion of our liberties.”
Wade said all videos will be monitored, recorded and saved on servers.
“Not only are they going to be monitored by police and the jail to see what’s going on inside the jail,” worried Blackburn, “but now, they’re going to be looking inside your home, too.”