PARSIPPANY — Inmates at the Morris County Correctional Facility who haven’t received visits in more than four months because of COVID-19 restrictions will soon be able to connect with family and friends through wireless tablets.
The Correctional Facility, which is run by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and houses inmates from both Morris and Sussex counties, was provided at least 85 Android tablets by GTL, a leader in technology and wireless solutions for correctional facilities.
Although inmates can telephone relatives and friends, the Correctional Facility on March 16 temporarily suspended in-person inmate visits with family to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The restriction currently remains in effect and has dispirited some inmates, Morris County Correctional Facility Warden Christopher Klein said.
Warden Klein noted that the tablets do not cost taxpayers any money. The cost of the tablet visit time spent by inmates is withdrawn from their commissary accounts by GTL. Inmates who lack funds will be allotted $3.75 a week from a special inmate welfare fund to engage in a 15-minute virtual visit with relatives.
“In these trying times it’s very beneficial for inmates to have supportive contact with family,” Warden Klein said.
“At no cost to taxpayers, this program will allow inmates important contact with caring relatives who can help ease stress and isolation the inmates may feel,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.
Beyond virtual visits, the tablets also can be used to access approved educational and entertainment materials and in-house request forms. When visitation restrictions are lifted, inmates may also use the tablets to virtually visit with relatives and friends who live out-of-state or cannot make in-person visits to the Correctional Facility.
Correctional Facility Lieutenant Michael Schweizer and Sergeants Raymond Dykstra and Shawn Johnston have been spear-heading the tablet project and working with GTL on fine-tuning operational aspects.
Multiple safeguards are in place for use of the tablets:
- They run on GTL’s network security, a full-featured security access control software;
- Virtual visits can only be initiated by family and friends outside the facility;
- The tablet cameras used for virtual visits are operational only in secure visiting booths and not from within inmate cells;
- Features that could present potential security risks have been removed and inmates have no access to core device settings other than volume, rotation, and brightness control.
Virtual visits will be allowed on the same days and times that in-person visits were permitted before the suspension. The use of the tablets for educational or entertainment purposes can occur whenever inmates are not locked in their cells at specific times.
Regardless of the criminal charges they face, all inmates will have access to the tablets as long as they are in compliance with Correctional Facility rules.
Family and friends who wish to make virtual visits with an inmate at the Morris County Correctional Facility can click here to create an account to access the video visitation. Once the account is set up, funds can be deposited by clicking here.