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Video Visitation Now Available at Clarion County Jail

Monday, September 13, 2021 @ 12:09 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

B9029DD2-97BA-43FB-BD9B-840140E7A745_1_201_aSHIPPENVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – A video visitation system is now available at the Clarion County Jail, allowing friends and family to visit on a computer, tablet, or phone from their home.

Inmates must schedule a time and log onto a kiosk located at a central location in all cell blocks.

(Pictured above: left to right – Warden Jeff Hornberger, Commissioner Wayne Brosius, and Assistant District Attorney Drew Welsh review the new video visitation devices.)

“I understand the kiosks are operating finally after several months,” said Commissioner Wayne Brosius, Chair of the Prison Board, at last week’s meeting.

“We started this process that we were supposed to have it running back in May. GTL finally came in and has everything operational. The inmates have been using them since last Thursday. A lot of nice features on it, including educational, video visitation, and different things they can do.”

Security is tight for the new video kiosks that resemble a laptop, but the features for virtual visits are only allowed in the cell block designated area. Inmates can sign out the kiosks for educational programs but are not connected with the Internet outside of the central cell-block area.

Inmates must sign up for a certain time slot to use them, according to warden Jeff Hornberger.

Currently, there are only three landlines into the cell blocks, and the video visitation only works over landlines.

“They have to be respectful with this shared program, and they know what a very, very big privilege this is for them to have anything like this,” said Hornberger. “It’s a good administrative tool for compliance with the rules. They understand if they don’t follow the rules and regulations, we will take away the privilege.

“I thought they would use them a lot more than what they currently are, but it’s only been in operation for a few days. Everything has been working well. All of the staff has been trained on how to operate them, and we had a small demonstration on them and how to operate them and do some investigation and work on that, as well.”

Brosius noted if someone is calling in on a video visit, they only see the inmate, and everything else behind them is blurred.

“It’s not like you have all this stuff going on in the background at the jail,” said Brosius. “However, on the other end, you can see everyone visit with the inmate. There were family members and kids that were saying ‘hi’ and that sort of thing.“

District Attorney Drew Welsh replied: “We have had similar stuff that has happened from the recorded jail phone calls where somebody monitors them, and we’ve had people talk about drugs. Things like ‘get the bag out of the cabinet’ sort of things. Then police knock on their door and ask about the bag in the cabinet. It’s drugs.”

Hornberger noted that there will be adjustments in the program while it is just getting started.

“You need to monitor it, and the company has said if they observed any questionable conversations or activities, they would turn the information over to the appropriate authorities.”

GTL Services, the company that provides video visits also provides telephone services for the inmates, recently notified the warden that there have been new federal communication regulations mandating what can be charged for telephone charges and now video calls.

“They come down; they do this about once every couple of years. They mandate what Clarion can charge you for phone calls.

“We were charging 26 cents a minute, but now can only charge 21 cents per minute,” said Hornberger. “They will pay approximately the same amount for video visits.”

Family or friends must download payments for the inmates to use GTL Services. For more information, go to www.gettingout.com/visit-now/.

Traditional In-Person Visits

In addition to video visits, traditional in-person visits are allowed at the jail with visitors on one side of prison bars and inmates on the other side.

Deputy Warden Dave Sprankle shows space used for traditional person-to-person visits as an alternative to video visitation.

Deputy Warden Dave Sprankle shows space used for traditional person-to-person visits as an alternative to video visitation.

Prison Parking Lot

The subject of a deteriorating parking lot for the prison was discussed in recent meetings, and Ted Tharan and John Stiglitz were delegated to obtain estimates for the project.

After the review by maintenance personnel, it was suggested that more than a simple recoating of the parking lot was needed.

“We explored where both entrances, grinding everything down through the middle because he can’t just pave whatever cracks because they’ll just show up in a year later,” said Tharan. “They’re going to grind up four inches.”

Tharan said that there is “no shame” for the blacktop because it has been there for over 27 years without a seal coat.

“Our (commissioners) goal was to fix up everything that has been neglected for the last 50 years,” continued Tharan.

Funding for the project would likely come from the county’s General Fund, but other sources will be investigated.

“I think we designated the driveway as a street two or three years ago, so we could qualify for liquid fuels money because it’s actually a street with parking on each side. If you look at it that way.”

On a motion by Sheriff Rex Munsee, the board approved moving ahead with the repaving and repair of the prison parking lot at a cost of $48,698.25, bid by IA Construction Corporation.


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