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Rensselaer County Jail introduces video visitation

Updated: 07/29/2014 6:20 PM
Created: 07/29/2014 5:15 PM WNYT.com
By: Kumi Tucker

TROY - This inmate in the Rensselaer County Jail is talking to a relative on the new IP Web Visitor System.

Jail officials want to let people know this is now available to families and friends who want to chat face-to-face with an inmate.
 
Each of the 12 housing units has two of these rooms.

"We house in a lot of inmates from around the state and a lot of federal prisoners could be from anywhere in the country," said Rensselaer County Sheriff Jack Mahar.  "This gives the ability of those individuals also to have a visit from someone that they would like to have it with."

Sheriff Mahar says the system cost them about $350,000 to $380,000.  He says it will end up paying for itself.

Web visitors pay for blocks of video chat time.

"It's a very reasonable fee.  It's $9 for 20 minutes.  And you know, in today's day and age, taking a taxi down here and going back home, or bus trips, even driving, with the cost of gas, it's very reasonable," said Sheriff Mahar.

Security is, of course, an issue.  The sheriff says people trying to reach inmates are pre-screened, and all the video chats are recorded, except attorney or professional visits.

The sheriff says the system is easy to use and a visitor only needs a computer with a camera.

The system is available to inmates every day.

"You've got to realize that criminal behavior can be deterred if you have someone who cares about you and is willing to help you on the outside, that reduces recidivism.  That's a benefit to everyone because that reduces crime," said Chief Edward Bly.
 
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says his jail has had video visitation for a little over a year.

Click here to learn more or sign up for a video chat.
Click on the Bureau of Corrections tab on the Sheriff's web page.
 

An inmate at the Rensselaer County Jail uses the new video visitation system.
Photo: Lou Graiff / WNYT

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