Tulare County Sheriff's Office to start video visitation for inmates, families

TULARE COUNTY (KFSN) -- A South Valley sheriff's office is starting to spread the word about major changes coming to their correctional facilities.

Those who enter Tulare County's main jail won't be looking through its windows for much longer, as the sheriff's office changes the way inmates communicate and visit with their family members.

Now, they'll use an electronic device to see their loved one in what is called video visitation. The sheriff's office will have video visitation stations at Bob Wiley Correctional Facility and eventually at north and south substations, but family members will also have another option.

They can chat with an inmate online or simply pull up an application on their phone.

"Families that don't have the ability or have transportation to come to the facilities, now they can do it from their home," Capt. Tim Fosnaugh with the Tulare County Sheriff's Office said.

Family members from out of the state are now able to visit their loved ones via a web visit.

Fosnaugh says it a win-win system that's already being used by a handful of counties in California. Families can schedule a visit online or at a kiosk 24 hours in advance.

Visiting the video stations are free for one hour per week and $15 for 20 minutes after that. Similarly, the cost of online visitation is $15 for every 20 minutes but inmates will have a free hour every week for the first 30 days.

"Our goal is to maintain the family unit to the best of our ability," Fosnaugh explained. "I think this will further enhance the ability to visit more than two people every half hour."

Fosnaugh says three of their facilities are currently only open for visiting on weekends, but the video visitation system will be available Monday through Sunday.
He also says all non-legal visitations will be monitored and recorded.

"Gang attire, communications of a criminal nature, those will all be monitored," he said.

The new service will start the second week of January. At that time, face-to-face inmate visitation will stop.
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