Routt County Jail launching video conferencing for visits
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Jail is changing the way it allows inmates to visit with friends and loved ones on the outside.
On July 6, the jail will no longer allow in-person visits from behind glass and will switch over to a video conferencing system.
Attorneys will still be allowed to visit inmates in person.
Currently, the jail offers in-person visitation two days each week. Jail Lt. Michelle Richardson said handling those visits takes a lot of man hours.
With the new system, the jail will allow video visitation on weekdays, and jail staff will no longer have to shuffle around inmates, schedule visits and check in visitors.
“It’s very hands off for the deputies,” Richardson said.
There is a fee associated with using the service provided by Securus Technologies, but the jail is offering a free option for those who cannot afford it.
Richardson said that for the first couple of months, Securus will charge $5 for a 20-minute session. Securus will then charge $12.99 for a 20-minute session.
Those who cannot pay will be able to go to the jail and use a video conferencing unit there on Wednesdays and Saturday. Inmates will still be able to communicate over the phone.
Richardson said the video conferencing system will be a convenience for inmates, friends and family because they will not have to travel to the jail for visits.
“They can do it from their phone or they can do if from their home computer with a webcam,” Richardson said.
Inmates will be able to virtually attend family reunions and birthdays.
A video conferencing unit will be located in each of the jail’s eight housing units.
Video visits with inmates can be scheduled through the Securus website.
Securus is paying the $70,000 in operating costs. The jail paid about $30,000 for the equipment. Richardson said the money came out of the jail’s inmate fund.
“The inmates are paying for this so they can have more availability,” Richardson said.
Similar video conferencing systems are already being used in neighboring Grand and Moffat counties.
Moffat County deputy Josh Jensenlarge said the system has worked well for jail staff, and he has not heard any complaints from inmates.
“It’s kind of a self-cleaning oven,” Jensenlarge said. “Just turn it on and forget it.”
Also at the jail, a three-week fathering class is being offered for male inmates.
The class is aimed at helping inmates build stronger relationships with their children. Richardson said that building those relationships will hopefully prevent the inmates from committing future crimes.
The United Methodist Church of Steamboat Springs purchased the materials for the class, which will be taught by Susan Phillips, program coordinator for the Fatherhood Program of Routt County.
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