Given the multiple questions from relatives of inmates, the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DCR) announced today the start of virtual visits, called “video visits.”
In-person visits were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic to protect inmates, their families and employees of the correctional system.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been very aware of the importance of promoting communication and strengthening family relationships. Therefore, immediately and as part of the priorities, we established a method to keep the population in contact with their families through a program of free telephone calls, which the agency in coordination with the GTL provider extended until July, in addition to calls with charges that can be made regularly by inmates. Until July 31, the inmates of all the prison institutions in the system had been able to make about 150,000 calls free of charge, ”explained the head of the DCR, Eduardo Rivera Juanatey.
He indicated that the DCR began to implement a video visit project in three correctional institutions of the system, considering the pilot plan required in the recently approved Joint Senate Resolution 462 to be fulfilled.
In the Bayamón Income Center, as well as in the Bayamón 501 Institution and in the Women’s Correctional Institution, to date they have the service that uses specially programmed tablets, through which the members of the population have already made around 20,000 video calls with family members for a total of over 21,000 virtual minutes.
“Based on the complexity of the project in terms of acquisition and installation of technological resources, as well as the implementation of the required security guarantees, we have been informed by the GTL company (service provider), that its extension and implementation in All institutions in the system will take between four to six additional months. However, the expectation has been created that, in a little more than a month, we will be able to count on such service in Bayamón 1072, in the West Detention Center (Mayagüez) and in the Sabana Hoyos 384 Institution (Arecibo) . After these, the next institutions where the technology will be installed will be: Sabana Hoyos 728 (Arecibo), Sabana Hoyos 216 (Arecibo) and La Pica Camp in Jayuya. Thus, it will continue to be implemented until all the institutions of the system are covered, ”assured Rivera Juanatey.
He added that, in parallel, since the pandemic began, Corrección started a project to redesign the visiting areas so that they comply with the new protocols and adapt to the reality that we all experience. Among the changes made is the installation of acrylic panels and dividers in the viewing areas to maintain the distance and the protective barriers required by the health authorities to reduce the risks of contagion.
“We are at a time when the social mobility restrictions decreed by the Executive Orders have had to be reinforced given the rebound in Covid-19 cases in the community. Hand in hand with this, to prevent the virus from entering the correctional system, allowing hundreds of people who could be positive for the virus to enter correctional institutions, exposing the officers who carry out the entry records to contagion, and eventually these contagion in turn to the correctional population, we remain vigilant to the development of the pandemic in Puerto Rico so that at the indicated time we restart the face-to-face visits through the no-contact mechanism that has been implemented almost in its entirety “, said the DCR secretary .