The Michigan Department of Corrections launched a pilot program for video visitation in six prisons on Oct. 5.
“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 MDOC Director Heidi Washington said in a news release.
Each visit costs $3.20 and is structured to last for 20 minutes. Visits must be paid by the person scheduling them. They must be scheduled at least 72 hours in advance and not after 48 hours.
In the pilot programs, video visits were conducted in the prison’s visiting rooms, but MDOC has changed its policy to have video visits in housing units.
RELATED: How Oaks Correctional Facility is handling the pandemic
Chris Gautz, public information officer for MDOC, told the News Advocate in October that MDOC is planning to continue having a video visitation option even after in-person visits are reinstated.
“If your loved one is at the Oaks, and you’re from Detroit or in another state, it gives you that ability to still have that visit, without having to go the expense of driving seven hours or getting a hotel or having to rent a car,” he said.
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Gautz said in October that Oaks Correctional Facility has been “relatively unscathed” in the pandemic. The facility currently has 36 active cases among prisoners. Two prisoners have died from COVID-19.
Those who wish to video visit with a prisoner at the facility must be an approved visitor. They can visit the visitor website at midoc.gtlvisitme.com/app and create an account and request to visit a prisoner at the facility.
Once approved on the website, the visitor will be able to request a scheduled video visit.
Video visitation is not intended to replace in-person visits in the future, according to MDOC’s release.