More Michigan prisons offering video visitation during coronavirus pandemic

 Michigan Department of Corrections is trying to contain COVID-19 outbreak.
Michigan Department of Corrections is trying to contain COVID-19 outbreak. (WILX)
Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 4:37 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan Department of Corrections is offering a new way for prison inmates to connect with their loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Parnell Correctional Facility in Jackson was the first in Michigan to offer online video visitation beginning Monday. The G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson will begin offering the service later this week.

The Corrections Department plans to roll out a pilot program of video visitation at five other prison over the next month:

  • Chippewa Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula.
  • Ionia Maximum Security Prison.
  • Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia.
  • Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti.
  • Duane Waters Health Center.
  • C-Unit of Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center.

“Contact with friends and family is so important to the prison population. That’s why we worked hard to explore new technologies that could allow them to connect with their loved ones during this time,” said Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington.

Michigan prisons stopped allowing visitors in March due to coronavirus health and safety measures. Washington said the video visitation program eliminates the need for families to come inside prisons and potentially spread COVID-19.

Each online visit will last a maximum of 20 minutes and will cost $3.20. Visits should be scheduled two or three days in advance.

If the pilot program is successful, online video visitation will be rolled out to all Michigan Department of Corrections facilities. Washington said in-person prison visitation will resume when it is safe and likely will use the same online scheduling system.

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