Last week, Buffalo News reported on the high cost of visiting Erie County Jails. Families and friends of prisoners at Erie County Correctional Facility and Erie County Holding Center will now pay $12.50 to video chat with their loved ones during prison visits.
This does not prohibit them from paying personal visits to inmates in the New York correctional facilities. But, they also have a choice to utilize the new video visitation program. This new development was confirmed recently by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
Spokesman for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, Scott Zylka, said the introduction of video conferencing between prisoners and relatives at both facilities is a welcome development.
He said the new technology will better ensure:
- The safety and well-being of inmates
- Prevent the smuggling of contraband into the prisons
- Earn the Sheriff’s Office some money on the side
But, the cost of visiting Erie County Jails using this technology is a whopping $12.50.
Who Pays the Cost of Visiting Erie County Jails?
The initial contract between IC Solutions and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office for the video chat technology will be for three years. This will be renewable for two more years if both contractual parties so choose. IC Solutions is a telecom company based out of San Antonio.
So, how much does this technology cost New York taxpayers and the institutions? According to Scott Zylka:
“There is no cost to us. IC Solutions pays for installation. It’s their equipment. And the fee that was negotiated into the contract gives the Sheriff’s Office a larger percentage than the company.”
Then, who pays the cost of visiting Erie County Jails using this video technology? The callers AKA the prison visitors.
With the payment of $12.50 for video communication, each video prison visit will be capped at 25 minutes per session. This is equal to 50 cents per minute. The caller will be the one to pay for the video calls too.
The caller must have reserved a video session 24 hours before the actual conference time. Inmates will be at liberty to either accept or decline the conference.
In-Person Visits Still Allowed at Erie County Jails
Even though the cost of visiting Erie County jails using video conferencing is now $12.50, in-person visits are still free. And, they are still allowed, at least for now.
Peter Wagner, an attorney and executive director of Prison Policy Initiative, expressed fears that introducing video calling to the prisons may prompt the authorities to remove in-person visits. Wagner said:
“I hope that’s not the case here. There is no reason to put video calling kiosks in the facility to use unless they are planning to remove in-person visits.”
But Zylka relayed any fears about eliminating in-person visits at the correctional facilities. Buffalo News reports Zylka as saying:
“We still believe it important to have that interaction. We don’t see the need to completely eliminate face-to-face meetings.”
What do you think about the cost of visiting Erie County Jails using video conferencing? Should prison loved ones be charged for these calls? Is $12.50 too much to charge? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.