The proposed Virtual Visits Programme in the Prison Service, which facilitates virtual visits to and communicating via electronic mail with inmates, has become operational, as of Monday 6 April 2020.

This follows the successful trial-run of the online-visit pilot project at the Port of Spain Prison last Wednesday.

According to the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service, a policy was developed and has been adopted relative to virtual visits and electronic mail, in accordance with prison rules and regulations.

This policy provides for the general guidelines to be adhered to, including the censoring and monitoring of virtual visits and electronic mail, visiting hours and duration, visitor approval, expectation of visitors, visitor conduct and termination of visits.

Commissioner of Prisons (Ag), Dennis Pulchan told Guardian Media that the initiative was designed in response to the current COVID-19 crisis.

“The initiative is an important additional measure designed to keep the lines of communication open between inmates and their loved ones during this time and essentially, going forward,” he notes.

The Virtual Visit Programme has been implemented at the Golden Grove Prison, Remand Prison, Women’s Prison and the Maximum-Security Prison.

Members of the public are advised that the service would be facilitated through the Prisons Welfare Department, where inmates can submit a request for the visit through the Welfare Department and a family member would be contacted in order to schedule a visit.

Visits will be accommodated once every two weeks for each offender requesting to do so, for duration of up to ten minutes.

According to the prison service, it has recognised that the facility of visitation “is an important tool utilised to strengthen inmates’ social and familial ties and will promote any and such feasible measures while maintaining safety and security within the nation’s prisons.”

GUIDELINES TO ACCESS AN ONLINE VISIT

  • You must have a valid email address.
  • You will be advised of date and time of visit by Welfare Officer
  • You will receive an invitational link via email sent from the Prison Establishment which contacted you, indicating guidelines to be adopted during the visit and for video conferencing
  • After reading the guidelines, click the link you received in order to join the Virtual Visit and wait
  • Ensure that your video and microphone are enabled
  • You may choose to install the Zoom application to your device, or simply use the web interface from the link provided.
  • Please note than normal visitation rules apply as listed in guidelines to be adopted during a visit
  • If you contravene any of the established rules or guidelines, your Virtual Visit will be terminated immediately.

Story by RHONDOR DOWLAT-ROSTANT