Visitors will soon not need to go to the Porter County Jail to chat with inmates there. It's another example of technology improving people's lives.
The Porter County Board of Commissioners approved a new system last week to allow people to visit inmates online, at a cost of $20 for 20 minutes.
"It's an enhancement, not a change," Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain said.
Ever since the current Porter County Jail opened, face-to-face visits have been replaced with visits via video. That eliminates the ability for visitors to give contraband to prisoners and eliminates the risk of personal injury to either the visitors or prisoners during these visits.
The video visits, which are monitored and recorded, require less labor for correctional officers, so the jail now allows inmates three visits per week.
Adding the capability to visit by video without first going to the jail will reduce frustration among inmates and generate money for the county, Lain said.
Under the contract with Dallas-based Securus Technologies, the company will install $340,000 in equipment in exchange for charging $20 for a 20-minute visit. For the first two years, the county will get 20 percent of the proceeds after 750 virtual visits. The county will get 20 percent on all calls in subsequent years.
Visitors who travel to the jail for their video visits will not be charged.
The new system should be operational in four to six months. It will allow friends and relatives who live far from the jail, as well as those for whom travel time is a factor, to be able to visit.
Considering the jail holds federal prisoners, as well as prisoners whose relatives might live far away, this is a good alternative. All it takes is a PC or Mac, a webcam and a high-speed Internet connection -- and the ability to pay for each visit, of course.
Visits should be as convenient as practical, and this new contract will help make that happen.