New Tool Helps Families Visit with Inmates

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CRESTVIEW It's a new way to keep in touch with your loved ones who are incarcerated.

And you don't even need to leave your home.

It's called video visitation, and it's a popular tool many other county jails across the united states use.

The program is now up and running for inmates and visitors at the okaloosa county correctional facility in crestview.

"The response overall has been good. There are some who don't like it. It is a change in culture. It is very different from what we have been doing for many years. It is change for inmates, staff and visitors, but it has been largely received," said Paul Lawson, Chief Correctional Officer.

If visitors want to chat with an inmate in-house, they can schedule a 20 minute appointment with an inmate

They simply register from a kiosk at the jail, from there the steps are pretty simple.

"Once they request it, they are given a pin, as well as a monitor number, at which point they know which monitor to sit in, and their pin so they can access the appointment," said Jason Watson, Computer Technician for the Facility.

There's also an option for visitors who can't make it to the jail facility.

Visitors can now chat at home, through their computers with inmates at the jail.

Officials say it's a way for visitors to save time and money on travel, and it also helps those who live out-of-town stay connected.

"On average, we are having 30 percent of at-home visits. There are a lot more restrictions on who can come here. Currently if you come on site, you can only have two individuals, where at home you could have the whole entire neighborhood if you like," said Watson.

The at-home visits costs $5 a call.

Lawson says eventually they will bump that rate up to $20 a call, so that the program can begin to pay for itself.