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Santa Rosa Jail Implements Online Visitation

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In-person visits to inmates at the Santa Rosa County Jail are being phased out, in favor of new video technology from the firm Homewav.

The video system will benefit those who want to see their jailed relatives and friends, but cannot travel because of work, distance, a lack of transportation, and other reasons. 

“We’re just trying to keep up with technology and what other agencies have done,” said Deputy Rich Aloy, a spokesman with the Sheriff's Office.

Twenty kiosks containing small touch-screen video monitors and phone receivers for sound are being installed around the facility. April 27 is the launch date.

“You can use your home computer, a tablet, cellphone, any electronic device to communicate and do a video visit,” Aloy said. “As long as you have Internet access you can visit from anywhere in the world. It also increases visitation times because there’s no need for having staffing.”

Once the system is up and running, it will be available from eight a.m. until 10:30 p.m., seven days a week. It’s expected to free up about 20 officers for other duties, since they’ll no longer have to serve as monitors and escorts for inmates and visitors.

Using a kiosk will cost $0. 50 per minute, and there’s a 24-hour advance notice to sign up for a visit. Part of the proceeds will go to an inmate welfare fund, which pays for education and other programs for inmates.

Fifty other correctional facilities have Homewav systems. Hundreds of other jails and prisons around the country have similar operations from other firms. Aloy concedes that you really can’t replace in-person visitation, but the system does have its benefits.

“The only thing I’ve heard is that some folks just want the eye-to-eye visit,” Aloy said. “Although our visits are non-contact, that’s the only drawback that I’ve heard so far.”

But despite the claims of convenience, there are some who point to those who don’t have a computer, can’t afford the charges,or just prefer the face-to-face time.

The cost to taxpayers for the system is zilch. Both the equipment and installation have been picked up by Homewav. The only expense for the jail was the wiring, and that was paid out of an in-house fund.

More information on the video visitation system can be found at www.santarosasheriff.org.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.