With visitor restrictions still firmly in place due to the pandemic, the Michigan Department of Corrections has launched a new video visitation pilot plan as an alternative to offer a new avenue for those who are behind bars and their families to safely connect with one another in a virtual realm.
Video visitation successfully began Monday afternoon, October 12th, at the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, and online scheduling began today at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility also in Jackson, with video visitation expected to start there at the end of the week. The pilot will be rolled out to five other facilities in the next month. Those facilities include Chippewa, Ionia, Richard A. Handlon and Women’s Huron Valley correctional facilities, Duane Waters Health Center and C-Unit of Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center.
Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington says, “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.” She adds, “This is one step we are taking to safely restore contact between prisoners and their families, while protecting the health and well-being of everyone at our facilities. Video visitation will not replace contact visiting in the future, but it is a safe option we can proceed with during the pandemic.”
Concurrent with video visitation, the state corrections department has also been working to implement online scheduling software.
Visits are structured to last 20 minutes each and each visit will cost $3.20 and must be paid for in advance by the person scheduling the visit. Video Visits may be scheduled 72 to 48 hours in advance of the scheduled visit. At this time, friends and family will have the opportunity to schedule a visit at Parnall and G. Robert Cotton correctional facilities and they will soon have the opportunity at the other pilot sites once scheduling software has been installed there. Those incarcerated at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility will submit requests and schedule visits through a separate vendor.
Once the pilot program is complete, the department plans to offer video visitation and online scheduling at all correctional facilities statewide. Online scheduling will also be available for in-person visiting once it has been determined those visits can safely begin again. At this time, a date has not been set for when in-person visiting will resume, and the department continues to monitor the status of the virus around the state to determine when it might be safe to do so.
To protect the health of staff, prisoners, and the public, the MDOC suspended visitation at correctional facilities statewide on March 13th. Following that suspension, Director Washington convened a visiting operations committee to explore options for safely re-instituting prisoner visits, which resulted in the recommendation for the video visitation pilot.
Approved visitors can navigate to https://midoc.gtlvisitme.com/app to set up their visits and find more information about compatible devices and technology.
More information, directions on scheduling video visits, compatible technology, and future updates on video visiting, including visiting at Women’s Huron Valley, will be published on the MDOC’s web site, and can be found here, as well: