Louisiana Jail To Ban All In-Person Visitation, Will Only Allow Video Visitation
A jail in Louisiana is banning all in-person visits for inmates and instead enacting a “video visitation” program for them to see and talk to their relatives and friends.
In a report from the New Orleans Advocate, the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna, Louisiana, will ban in-person visits beginning October 10, opting out for a video-only program similar to Skype. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto hopes that the change will end the possibility of visitors giving contraband to inmates. The program is also being implemented because fewer staffers would be necessary to watch a video session in comparison to an in-person visit.
Although it is becoming more common for correctional facilities across the country to use video technology, it is less common for those facilities to ban in-person visits completely. Lopinto also said that through the video program relatives and friends will be able to speak with inmates nearly 12 hours a day, seven days a week, compared to in-person visits which are two-hour blocks and once a week depending on where the inmate is assigned. But the video sessions cost approximately $13 for 20 minutes, a price which could potentially discourage families and friends from using the remote service.
Katie Schwartzmann, an attorney, and co-director of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans, as well as local defense attorneys Jay Daniels and Craig Mordock, are concerned about the removal of personal contact from the jail and the effects that could have on inmates, especially considering the ones housed at Jefferson Parish are awaiting trial but have not been convicted of any wrongdoing.
“People who are simply detained need access to family members,” Mordock said. “And in-person visitation is radically different than doing a Skype session.”
The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has been using video visitation exclusively since the Orleans Justice Center opened in September 2015. Inmates’ loved ones must go to a visitation center that is open six days a week to conduct video sessions.