OK Jails Raise Income From Video Visitations

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A move by Tulsa jail officials to reduce on-site visitation from six days each week to two is part of a broader effort across Oklahoma for jails to move toward a more lucrative video visitation system, reports The Frontier. Tulsa officials said a state survey showed that only one of 25 other jails and prisons allowed visitation more than two days a week. Promoting video visitation over in-person jail visits stands to be a financial boon for a sheriff’s office saddled with financial stress left over from the former administration. When Tulsa Sheriff Vic Regalado was elected last year, he immediately set upon finding ways to balance his budget.

The reduced visiting hours should increase the number of visitors who use the video visitation options offered by the jail through the “HomeWAV” company. Video visitation systems are on the rise nationwide. Primarily ran through third-party vendors, they offer cost savings for jails, that no longer have to hire detention officers whose primary purpose is to watch over visitation. They also offer convenience for users who no longer have to travel to the jail to speak to incarcerated loved ones. That convenience comes at a price. For 50 cents a minute, anyone can talk to a Tulsa Jail inmate through a home computer, or a smartphone app. Such calls already have raised nearly $90,000 in three months for the sheriff’s office, which gets a portion of the fees. That figure could rise once the limited visitation goes into effect next week.

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