By EILEEN MCCLORY
If you want to talk to a loved one in the Hancock County jail, you can no longer do that in person.
Instead, visitors at the jail have to schedule a time in advance to video chat with inmates, according to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office website.
The change in policy began Monday.
Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman said the new policy allows people to visit from home, if they wish.
The video chat is free for visitors who come to the jail, but there is a cost for video chats from home.
The change means fewer jail staff members will be involved in moving inmates from their cells to visitation rooms and monitoring visits, said Hancock County Jail Lt. Ryan Kidwell. It also allows for visits to take place at a greater variety of hours and days.
Visitors can now schedule a daily visit from 9 a.m. to 11:20 a.m., 12:20 p.m. to 4:20 p.m., and 5:20 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.
The visit has to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance, according to the sheriff’s website, and can be scheduled up to 21 days in advance.
Heldman said the jail has received some complaints about the change, but the switch seems to be working.
“Overall, it’s going well,” Heldman said.
The jail is using Securus Technologies, which offers inmate calling options and video visitation, according to the company’s website. The jail has a five-year contract with Securus, Kidwell said.
There was no upfront cost for the jail to switch to the video visitation, he added, and fees paid by callers will pay for the technology and software.
Visitors have to pay for the video chat if they call from somewhere other than the jail. Kidwell said the caller would be charged $12.95 for a 20-minute offsite video chat.
If a visitor doesn’t have the technology at home to visit a loved one in the jail, they can use free technology in the lobby of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, Kidwell said.
To make an account or schedule a visit, go to videovisitanywhere.com or hancocksheriff.org/corrections