By Robin Y. Richardson
The Marshall News Messenger
October 5, 2012
October 7, 2012
Thanks to the innovation of a Virginia-based company, loved ones of inmates in the Harrison County Jail can now connect with them via video from the comfort of their homes.
All they need is a computer with a webcam and Internet access.
“It’s a neat concept that definitely saves the jail money and saves the taxpayer money, which is a nice thing,” Gary Humphries, president of HomeWAV, the creator of the service, said in a telephone interview.
The Harrison County Sheriff’s Office launched the new inmate video visitation program this week, becoming the first jail facility in the state to offer direct video visitation.
“Video visitation is the wave of the future for correctional facility visiting,” Sheriff Tom McCool said in a press release. “And Harrison County is proud to be the first facility in Texas to offer direct video visitation. The new system presents tremendous advantages in time and cost savings, as well as contributing to increased safety and security for our facility.”
Humphries, a computer scientist, said the jail became the first facility in Texas to offer the direct real-time video visits at the recommendation of Guardian Security.
“Guardian Security is our integrator for the state of Texas,” said Humphries, noting the company is the provider of Harrison County Jail’s surveillance and security system.
“We’re trying to be real selective,” he said, noting the county jail is the sixth facility to offer the service.
According to a press release, the new system allows family members and friends to schedule and conduct visits with jail inmates, using any suitable computer connected to the Internet. The new visitation system opens up available visitation hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, expanding visitation from the previous two days a week with limited 20 minute visits.
“The visit works just like a phone call — no jail personnel are involved in connecting the visit. And unlike other visitation systems, there is no need to involve jail personnel to schedule visits in advance,” HomeWAV officials advised.
The cost to the visitor is only 50 cents per minute, which is typically less than a collect phone call, officials noted.
Sheriff McCool noted that there is no cost to the jail or to taxpayers for the equipment or installation. He said maintenance is covered, at no charge, for the life of the contract. According to the press release, the system is expected to greatly reduce overall personnel costs for the jail by making the visitation process simpler and safer for all involved.
McCool said since the installation of the HomeWAV visitation stations in the day rooms for the inmates, early feedback from both inmates and visitors have been positive.
“Our inmates feel more connected to their homes and families, and this has a positive impact on morale and behavior,” the sheriff said. “Their family members are spared the expense, inconvenience, and emotional distress of coming into the jail to visit.
“Let’s face it, visiting a loved one in an institutional environment, with the inherent security requirements, can be an unpleasant experience for anyone, especially children,” he said.
The visitation stations at the jail consist of a telephone handset, keypad, webcam, PC, and video monitor.
Humphries said other states that have had facilities launch the program include Kansas, Washington, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
“It’s been pretty exciting,” said Humphries, noting families from as far away as Mexico have raved about the program, sharing how it has helped them stay in touch with their incarcerated loved ones. “It’s really been amazing for families because many facilities don’t allow children inside (to visit).
“This keeps families connected,” said Humphries.
He said he developed the direct video visitation system after meeting with officials in the state of Virginia.
“They said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a Skype (type system) for jails, and we went to work,” Humphries recalled.
He said the company’s patent-pending system is the most innovative and advanced web-based visitation system of its kind and the only one with no direct or indirect costs to the facility.
“It was designed with guidance from jail administrators, with the facilities’ needs and operation uppermost in mind, rather than trying to make jails operate around the requirements of the visitation system,” said Humphries.
According to the company, since its launch in January, HomeWAV has successfully managed more than 10,000 calls and 100,000 visitation minutes, with facility personnel and users giving it high marks for ease of use, reliability and security. Officials said the system is being marketed to municipal, state and federal correctional facilities and is in use nationwide, from coast-to-coast.
Humphries said, through the system, they hope to give families hope, keeping them bonded.
For more information about the system, visit HomeWAV’s website, homewav.com.Read More...
By Dave Forster
August 2, 2012
It’s not the newest social media craze, but it could be a big hit in the jailhouse: video chatting with inmates.
Such a service is about to go live at the Portsmouth City Jail under a deal between Sheriff Bill Watson and a Virginia Beach company. As early as next week, inmates will be able to use a computer to talk to a loved one via webcams for 50 cents a minute.
Proponents say it will be good for taxpayers and the incarcerated, and Portsmouth’s jail will be the first in Virginia to offer it, said Watson and his partner, HomeWAV. Other facilities are exploring it.
“We’re definitely going down that path,” said Ashley Lanteigne, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office.
Virginia Beach already has received demonstrations from HomeWAV and other potential providers, she said.
The service is touted as a cost-saver because it cuts down on the time it takes staff to transport and supervise inmates and their visitors during on-site meetings.
It also gives more people a chance to see a relative or friend who’s serving a sentence or waiting to make bail. Visitors to the Portsmouth City Jail must be at least 12. Others may be too old or frail to visit.
“They can talk to the children; they can talk to the elderly mother,” said Lt. Lee Cherry, a Portsmouth sheriff’s spokesman.
Paula Miller, a spokeswoman for the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office, said her agency is in the early stages of considering its own online video visitation system. But there are concerns, she said. Among them, deputies give up control over the person on the other end of the conversation.
Gary Humphries, the company’s founder and CEO, said visits can be terminated immediately if the online visitor does or says something inappropriate. The chats are recorded, he said.
Some jails already have done away with the traditional visitation rooms so often depicted in TV and movies, where inmates sit behind a glass partition and pick up a telephone to talk to their visitor. Norfolk and Virginia Beach allow visits by video only, with systems that still require both parties to be on-site.
The state’s Department of Corrections offers another kind of video visitation program. It partners with two nonprofits that have six locations in four cities, including Norfolk, where people can go to make a video visit with a prisoner. Those visits cost $15 for 30 minutes or $30 for an hour. The fees cover costs for the nonprofits, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections website.
Portsmouth’s Sheriff’s Office will get a portion of the proceeds of its new service. HomeWAV has provided 26 monitors and is covering the costs of installing and operating the system, Humphries said.
When the service begins, inmates will be able to place a call to the computer of an approved visitor. Most of the jail’s monitors will be open between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., compared with the current three-hour evening window for on-site visits, Cherry said.
Portsmouth is HomeWAV’s sixth contract, Humphries said. Its first partnership, with a locality in Kansas, has produced 5,471 calls and more than 55,000 minutes of video chats since it started in January, he said. That 100-inmate facility is less than a quarter of the size of Portsmouth’s City Jail.Read More...
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson has implemented the HOMEWAV web access visitation system providing face to face video calls.
This is the first time in Virginia jail inmates will be able to communicate with family and friends seven days a week via the internet. Video visitation means set visitation hours are a thing of the past, replacing them with visits seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Michael Bell is an inmate in the Portsmouth City Jail, and beginning Aug. 6, he and other inmates can start using the HOMEWAV Web access to communicate with loved ones at home.
“I’ve made some bad choices, but I miss my kids, so this machine is going to allow me to talk to them,” Bell says. “It’s one thing to talk to them on the phone, but to see them running around in a room and moving around and to see the expression on their face, it’s really going to be a big help.”
SE Systems owner Chris Gerarge is installing the system, and says anyone with a computer and a webcam can connect to the system.
The calls cost 50 cents a minute, and 30 percent of the money raised will go into the inmate canteen fund for inmate services. The video visitation is also designed to boost morale making deputies’ jobs easier.
“We want them to stay in touch with their families. We want them to talk with their children, and this is one way of doing it, and it is really important,” Lt. Lee Cherry said.
The video visitation will really be important for Bell on Aug. 13 when he makes a surprise call to his 8-year-old daughter.
“Because of this machine I will be able to call her on her birthday and see her face to face, so that’s really important to me,” Bell said.
Children under 12 cannot even go in the jail, and statistics show increased communication with family can only help inmates when they get out.
“If an inmate can communicate with this family while they are in jail, it reduces the chances they return to jail after they do their time,” Gerarge said.
There is no cost to taxpayers for implementing the video system, which will have 27 stations including the one used to monitor the calls. Jail administrators tell WAVY.com if anything inappropriate happens during the calls, the inmates’ access to the video visitation will be revoked.
Provider HOMEWAV and installer SE Systems are both Virginia Beach-based companies. They have installed the system in jails in five states so far.Read More...
By Joseph Jackmovich
The Garden City Telegram
Visiting with an inmate lodged in the Finney County Jail can now be done from the comfort of home, though that convenience comes at a cost. The Finney County Jail began its new inmate video visitation program on January 12, allowing people to connect from anywhere they have a suitable computer and Internet connection. The new visitation opens up available visitation hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, up from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday. The cost for general visitation is now 50 cents a minute with a maximum time of 20 minutes per visit. The county receives 40 percent of the proceeds from the visits.
The previous video system was installed in 2000, and was only available in the jail lobby, without an in-person window visitation system available at the jail. Finney County Jail Administrator Mark Welch said that the plan was to add seven additional kiosks, but that was before the jail grew from a 55-bed to a 220-bed facility. The resulting addition to the building meant that there was not room for the planned kiosks, so the lobby would have people waiting hours in advance in order to secure a spot during the three-hour visitation window.
“If you were here before, the lobby would be full and difficult for staff to deal with,” Welch said. “It’s like nobody is out here now.”
Tech Administrator Lt. Robert Hahn said the system is a vast improvement over the previous one, which was starting to show its age after 12 years of service. Hahn brought up the idea after he found out the company that runs the service, Home Wav, would pay for the cost of installing the equipment.
Hahn said the main advantage of this visitation system is that people from all over the world can now visit someone in jail without having to leave their home, assuming they have the right technology. He said that a computer equipped with a webcam and a high speed internet connection would likely be enough for the visitations to be without time delays or video problems.
Four visitation kiosks and a registration kiosk are available in the jail lobby. While the majority of minutes used so far have been from home, Hahn said that the department had an obligation to provide systems for public use. “We know folks out there don’t have computers at home,” Hahn said. “But they can do it all from here. We felt it was necessary to provide this service.”
As well as the provided kiosks at the jail, Welch said that he was currently in preliminary talks with the Finney County Public Library to have some unites installed. This would allow to people use public terminals without having to go to the Law Enforcement Center, along with the overall increase in accessibility.
Registration for the service only takes about 15 minutes. Before a visitation can be made, a user must register at HomeWav.com or through the registration kiosk at the jail. A PayPal account is required to pay for the minutes, which can be loaded with pre-paid Visa cards available at many retail outlets. After registration is complete and a user logs into the system, a screen can be seen displaying whether or not there are calls awaiting an answer. An incoming call brings up audio and visual prompts, so people at home can leave their screens open so inmates at the facility can contact them when they are available.
Hahn said that future plans for the system include a planed application for the Smartphone’s so that visitations could be held anywhere. He said that inmates could take virtual walks around the zoo or be able to be an interactive part of a family event.
One thing that is not planned, however, is to allow people who cannot afford the visitation to visit family or friends in jail. This issue concerned Garden City resident Daniella Ortero, who is a cousin of Finney County Jail inmate Lorenzo West. However, Ortero said that the new system does have definite advantages, which makes it hard to say the change was negative. She said that because of the new Web-format, West can visit family in California, something that he was not able to do before. Ortero said that her family spends approximately $20 a week on visitations and that number may increase.
For inmate video visitation system, call the Finney County Jail at 272-3756 or visit homewav.com.Read More...
By KSNW News
GARDEN CITY, Kansas (AP) – Family and friends who want to visit loved ones in the Finney County jail just have to log on to their computers.
The jail in Garden City is using a new system that allows people to contact inmates from anywhere with a suitable computer and Internet connection.
The new program means inmates can be visited from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. The cost of a general visit is 50 cents per minute with a maximum allowed visit time of 20 minutes.
Previously, inmate visits were possible only over a video system in the jail lobby and only from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday.Read More...
By The Garden City Telegram
Businesses trying to stay viable can’t always cut expenses. They also must pursue innovative ways to boost income.
The same goes for governments. Count one recent move in Finney County as a good way to land more revenue while addressing a lingering issue surrounding jail visitation.
At the Finney County Jail, growth from a 55-bed to 220-bed facility ate up space for kiosks used to give jail visitors an opportunity to visit with inmates via an in-house video system. Even before the jail grew and consumed that space, the limited area for visitors had the lobby packed and difficult for staff to handle.
A sensible solution came recently in a new jail video visitation system that enables friends and relatives to connect with inmates from anywhere if they have a webcam-equipped computer and Internet connection — for a fee. The Internet-based visits cost 50 cents a minute or $10 for a 20-minute visit, the maximum time allowed for a single visit.
As part of a deal with the company that provides the service, 40 percent of the proceeds go to Finney County — welcome at a time governments must generate new income that helps defray costs for the services citizens expect.
Future plans for the new video system include a smartphone application so jail visits could occur practically anywhere. For example, inmates could be part of a virtual, interactive day at the park or other family event.
Anyone who doesn’t own a home computer still may log in at the jail, as the county maintained four visitation kiosks to provide systems for public use.
Of course, paying to visit an inmate may seem a burden to some people, especially at a time of tight household budgets. But at least people who live out of town won’t have the expense of travel for a visit.
It is beneficial for prisoners to maintain contact with family and friends who would serve as a network of support once they’re released.
For those who still can’t afford to reach out to inmates through the new system, there’s always the traditional, tried-and-true way to correspond: Write a letter.Read More...
By Joseph Jackmovich
The Garden City Telegram
Visiting with an inmate lodged in the Finney County Jail can now be done from the comfort of home, though that convenience comes at a cost.
The Finney County Jail began its new inmate video visitation program on Jan. 12, allowing people to contact people in the jail from anywhere they have a suitable computer and Internet connection. The new visitation opens up available visitation hours to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, up from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday, but also is no longer free. The cost for general visitation is now 50 cents a minute or $10 for a 20-minute visit, the maximum time allotted for a single visit. The county receives 40 percent of the proceeds from the visits.
The previous video system was installed in 2000, and was only available in the jail lobby, without an in-person window visitation system available at the jail. Finney County Jail Administrator Mark Welch said that the plan was to add seven additional visitation kiosks, but that was before the jail grew from a 55-bed to a 220-bed facility. The resulting addition to the building meant that there was not room for the planned kiosks, so the lobby would have people waiting hours in advance in order to secure a spot during the three-hour visitation window.
“If you were here before, the lobby would be full and difficult for staff to deal with,” Welch said. “It’s like nobody is out here now.”
Tech Administrator Lieutenant Robert Hahn said the system is a vast improvement over the previous one, which was starting to show its age after 12 years of service. Hahn brought up the idea after he found out the company that runs the service, HomeWAV, would pay for the cost of installing the equipment. The improvement did not come without cost for the Sheriff’s Office however, which had to pay approximately $20,000 to update and re-fit the wiring from the old visitation systems. The entire update took about 10 days.
Hahn said the main advantage of this visitation system is that people from all over the world can now visit someone in jail without having to leave their home, assuming they have the right technology. He said that a 1.6 GHz computer equipped with a webcam and a 1.5 Mbps Internet connection would likely be enough for the visitations to be without time delays or video problems.
“It doesn’t take a monster (computer) by any means,” Hahn said. “The biggest thing is a decent Internet connection.”
Though the service has logged approximately 2,000 minutes since its inception, it has not been without hiccups along the way. Hahn said that there were some connection issues and computer reboot issues resolved, and that a known problem with other programs conflicting with the camera currently is being addressed. For people who have experienced technical problems with their visits, Hahn said that HomeWAV has been very responsive in compensating minutes and communicating with customers.Read More...