Billings Area News

Dec 11, 2013 12:41 AM by MTN News

New system at Yellowstone County jail allows visitation via the internet

BILLINGS - A new system at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility gives friends and family members the option to visit inmates from the comfort of their own home.

The remote visitation system by Telmate is equipped with a camera and telephone for communication. It launched last Thursday.

After scheduling an appointment, inmates can chat with their loved ones via the internet.

"This gives you the option to schedule a visit at a time that is convenient for you and you can stay right at home," said Telmate Account Manager Justin Tidwell. "It also saves you time and money from driving down here. You'll be able to do a visit with the family right at home."

Visitors can sign up for a Telmate account at the kiosk in the detention facility lobby or by visiting the Telmate website.

Remote visitations last for 30 minutes and cost $10.50.

This is the first Telmate video system in the state of Montana. Yellowstone County Detention Facility Commander Lt. Sam Bofto said it was a win-win situation because it saves the facility time and money.

"The equipment doesn't cost the tax payers anything," he said. "It's Telmate's equipment and what we do is, the revenues generated from the Telmate operations benefit the inmates."

The profits go towards the inmate canteen fund which includes the G.E.D program, various inmate activities, the chaplain and anger management classes.

At any given time, the facility houses up to 460 inmates, which can make for a long wait at times during visiting hours.

While there will still be the option for in-person visits, facility staff hopes remote visitations will cut down visitor traffic in the jail lobby.

"We hope to see that a lot of the inmate's families utilize this instead of driving down here," Bofto said. "It's a convenience."

Inmates are limited to one in-person visit during the week. They have unlimited access to remote visitation as long as they're willing to pay the fee.

All video conversations are monitored and recorded for security and legal reasons.

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