It is important for inmates to maintain contact with family members, but if an inmate is placed in a prison on the other side of the country, it can be too expensive for the family members to visit them. The National Probation Service Georgia found the solution for this problem. Together with the prison departement, they set up a video conference service for prisoners. Since 2011 inmates can video call with friends, family members or relatives, if they are not in the position to visit them in person. Irakli Chitanava, Deputy Head of the National Probation Service, explains how the system works.
When the video conference service was introduced, it was only available in several regions in Georgia. Now, 7 years later, inmates from almost all the regions in Georgia can use the service. At first users needed to pay small fee was asked for the use of video conferencing, but since 2016 the service is free of charge.
The role of the National Probation Service
The National Probation Service Georgia is the one responsible for managing the applications and schedules for video conference sessions, says Irakli Chitanava. “Persons who are willing to make use of the video conference service, should submit their application seven days in advance of the call. They can use the service once every ten days and the duration of the call is 15 minutes.” Inmates are not in the position to apply for a video conference themselves. The service is not available for everyone. “Offenders who have committed a major serious crime are not allowed to use video conferencing.”
Irakli Chitanava explains that anyone that wants to talk to an inmate, can apply for the service, but it is mostly used by family members, relatives or friends that cannot visit them in prison due to a lack of financial resources. “In many cases, the offender is located in an establishment on the other side of the country and his or her family members or friends live far from the establishment, therefore the contact between them requires expenses, which the offender’s family can’t afford.”
In Georgia the circle of persons that are allowed to visit an offender in prison is very restricted. Only family members that have the right documents to prove they are relatives can visit their family member in prison. The video conference service also made it possible for friends and others persons to talk to a prisoner.