The Harlan County Detention Center recently changed the way inmate visitation is done. Video visitation is now available through Telmate, a company that handles multiple jail services.
Harlan County Jailer B.J. Burkhart said the jail has been using Telmate for visitation services for approximately one month.
Inmate visitation is now scheduled online at https://www.gettingout.com/
“You can log-on with a computer or smart phone,” Burkhart said. “You schedule your visit that way instead of coming to the jail, checking in and having to wait.”
Burkhart explained the inmates must accept a visit before it is placed on the schedule. Once the inmate accepts the visit, a message is sent to the visitor verifying the visit time. Inmates may also request a visit with a person on the outside via the service.
Harlan County Jailer’s Chief Deputy Derrick Moore said HCDC starting working with Telmate shortly after Burkhart was elected.
“They’re the most advanced that we could find,” said Moore. “In the past, the phone system, video visitation, how money was brought in — it was all different companies. We’ve consolidated it all with Telmate.”
Moore said video visitation has freed up jail staff who in the past would have to stand with the inmates while they visited.
“Also it give the families an opportunity to visit for up to an hour and a half a day with each inmate,” Moore said. “We’ve opened the floodgates for when they can spend time with them. You can visit from a home computer for $4.95 for a 15-minute session. That’s cheaper than phones.”
Moore pointed out the price drops to $3.75 per 15 minute visit if the visitor comes to the jail and uses the monitors provided in the detention center lobby. There are also two free visits per week per inmate.
“We give the inmates two free 15 minute visits a week,” Moore said. “The family members have to come here to the lobby to get that. If you visit from home, there is the $4.95 charge.”
Burkhart said visiting hours have been extended as a result of using the system, with visitation available Monday through Sunday.
“We had restricted hours when they could visit because our staff had to operate the system,” Moore explained. “Telmate operates itself…we’ve opened up visitation from home computers to the cells to 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. From when lights come on until lights go off, inmates can have visits and contact with their family.”
Burkhart said Telmate provides inmates with computer tablets inside the cells.
“It’s five cents per minute to use the tablets,” Moore said. “If they connect to their family, it’s a quarter to get a digital photo or send an email or text message.”
Moore said this provides the jail with revenue, meaning lowered expense to the county.
“We’re just giving them (inmates) a service they want,” Moore said. “We’re giving them more ways to use their money in jail, and it makes more profit for fiscal court to use.”
Burkhart says it is a good idea to schedule visits at least 24 hours in advance.
“That gives the inmate time to accept it,” Burkhart said. “If you come to the jail without doing the scheduling, you’ve got to wait for them to schedule it, and the schedule might already be full.”
According to Moore, only six Kentucky counties are using Telmate at this time.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde