Lafayette jail upgrades video visitation system

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- A new teleconferencing system for inmates and their families will go live Monday at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center in Lafayette.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- A new teleconferencing system for inmates and their families will go live Monday at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center in Lafayette.

Starting Monday, inmates at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center will have more opportunities for face-to-face video conversations with family and friends.

Workers with private jail communications company Telmate this past weekend were on schedule to complete the installation of a new video visitation system that offers more video stations on which inmates can visit loved ones.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for the family members,” said Rob Reardon, who runs the parish jail.

Inmates will be allowed to video conference with people outside the jail from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. every day, an expansion from the current 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. schedule on weekdays, said Julio Naudin, a program development manager for Sheriff Mike Nuestrom.

The old system offered fewer operational hours on weekends, Naudin said.

There are more than 800 inmates at the jail on most days, and they will be allowed two free 30-minute person-to-person video chats each week, Naudin said.

Inmates or their families will be charged 25 cents to 50 cents per minute after the free 30-minute blocs, depending on where the calls are made.

The new system is a big improvement over one installed years ago, in part because the new system works, Reardon said.

The old system, purchased from Telmate in 2005 with a $240,000 federal grant, quit working this past Monday.

“We got every last minute out of that system,” Reardon said.

The old system offered the same services, he said, but at a limited number of locations within the jail. Reardon said families had to use video stations in the jail lobby and there were fewer places within the jail system where inmates could use them.

Now, Naudin said, up to 17 inmates can use the system at one time, and families can tune in anywhere there’s an Internet connection.

He said the expanded hours during the week and weekend “will allow for more personal connections on family event days such as birthdays, anniversaries, public holidays and religious holidays.”

Loved ones and others, who have no access to the Internet, may use the service at the sheriff’s new complex at 100 Poydras St., called the LPSO Community Corrections Center Campus.

The campus will open its doors to those using the “online visitation system” at 8 a.m. Monday, Naudin said.

Telmate will allow inmates free use of the system for the first week, and will not charge for excess minutes, he said.

People can sign up at the center on Poydras, or at one of two kiosks in the lobby of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, located at 916 Lafayette St. in downtown Lafayette. They can also register at www.gettingout.com.

Telmate, based in San Francisco, is installing and operating the system at no cost to the Sheriff’s Office, Reardon said.

Revenue is expected to come from inmates, families and friends who pay for extra time each week, he said.

As with the old system, conversations will be recorded and monitored, with guards ready to pull the plug on an interaction if they suspect something inappropriate, Reardon said.

Inmates also can use the system to make requests of their jailers, he said, such as requesting toiletries and inquiring about court dates.