For years, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office has been trying to find a new, more efficient way for inmates’ loved ones to visit them. With a new video conferencing system, they’ve got it.
Inmates and visitors can now connect via video courtesy of the systems installed by the jail’s voice telephone provider at no cost to taxpayers. A grant helped cover initial costs. A fee is charged to outside users to cover the cost of usage.
“It really started with the lack of space in their visitation area and the need to have additional seats," said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace. The system also solves another key problem.
"Fewer people might not come to the jail to visit and we couldn’t have to deal with them trying to smuggle contraband into the facility,” said Gerace.
For family and friends of individuals who are incarcerated, a visit to jail just to talk can be a long and challenging ordeal.
“The closest city to our jail in the county is about 20 miles. During inclement weather, that’s difficult. But it’s not unusual for inmates’ families to live in different states," said Gerace.
On initial glance, it may seem like an extravagant amenity for those who have been convicted of a crime against society, but Gerace has spoken with other facilities that have seen how inmate and jailers have benefited.
"They said they are extremely popular and the conduct has been absolutely stellar on the systems because they don’t want to lose their privilege,” said Gerace.
The system also allows attorneys to have confidential contact with their clients. All other video calls will be monitored and recorded to ensure strict rules of conduct are followed by both inmates and visitors.