Hamilton County Jail opens registration for new video visitation

An inmate and his visitor converse during a scheduled visitation at the Hamilton County Jail in downtown Chattanooga on Aug. 5.
photo An inmate and his visitor converse during a scheduled visitation at the Hamilton County Jail in downtown Chattanooga on Aug. 5.

Video visitation

At the jail› Open every day from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; 4-6 p.m.› Free› Limited to two 30-minute sessions per week› Visitors must be age 14 or olderFrom home› Available every day from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; 4-10 p.m.› $15 per 30-minute session, whether or not the full time is used› Unlimited sessions with visitors of any ageSource: Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

Signup required

Anyone who wants to visit inmates must register at securustech.net/friends; or visit the Hamilton County Jail to register online in the lobbyYou must have:› Internet connection, computer and webcam› Valid email address› Government-issued photo IDSource: Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

The Hamilton County Jail will switch from in-person visits to video visitation on Nov. 10, and anyone who wants to visit an inmate in the jail must register to use the new system.

After the system goes live a week from today, all visits with inmates will be through the video system - a change designed to cut down the manpower and scheduling difficulties that accompany in-person visits.

Family and friends will visit with inmates in video booths at the jail instead of face to face, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Inmates will use video consoles installed inside the jail, while visitors use video booths in a separate section of the jail. On-site video visits will be free and limited to two 30-minute sessions per week. Only people who are 14 years old or older can use the video visitation on-site.

The video visitation system will also allow family and friends to visit an inmate without being at the jail - from any computer with a high-speed Internet connection and a webcam - for $15 per 30-minute session.

These "at-home" visitations will be unlimited and there are no age restrictions for participants, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Matt Lea said. Each 30-minute session will cost $15 whether or not the entire 30 minutes is used, he said.

Family and friends will be able to schedule both types of sessions online, and inmates will check a daily schedule in the morning to see if they have a visit that day. All visits must be scheduled a full day in advance - Wednesday visits must be scheduled by Monday, Friday visits must be scheduled by Wednesday, and so on.

After the video system rolls out, only "privileged" and "legal" visits will be conducted face to face, Lea said. Attorneys will have the option of visiting with an inmate in-person or visiting via video - attorneys can opt to hold confidential video sessions that are not recorded.

The switch from face-to-face visits to video visitation has been in the works for almost two years. Hamilton County commissioners began considering the option in January 2014.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.