VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s been two months since the Virginia Beach Jail stopped allowing visitors when their video visitation system went down.
Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office officials say they can’t repair the current system, they have to completely replace it with a new one.
They say they’re doing all they can to expedite the process, but some frustrated parents who reached out to 10 On Your Side say the process is taking too long.
“I realize people are incarcerated for a reason, but it’s been deplorable,” said one inmate’s mother, Virginia Schepleng.
The Virginia Beach Jail’s nearly 13-year-old video visitation system broke around the end of March.
Chief Deputy of Operations Victoria Thomson says they asked for the $500,000 funding from the city for a new system five years ago, but didn’t receive it until last July.
Thomson says it’ll be a few weeks until the installation is complete, but they haven’t pinned down an exact day.
In the meantime, they’ve made some accommodations.
“What we’ve done to try and get the families to have more contact, or some contact, with their loved ones is we’ve provided free telephone calls daily,” explained Thomson.
However, Schepleng says she’s only heard from her son once in two weeks.
“The telephones seems to be a very long line, sometimes they run out of time to even get to the phone, so it’s not as easy as they put it up to be,” said Schepleng.
She says her son is battling mental health problems and she’s worried not being able to see if he’s OK.
“It is a dangerous situation, and at least contact the family visually so you can assess them a little bit, even if it’s on a screen,” she said.
However, Thomson says they’re keeping a close eye on all of them.
“If the parents are concerned they haven’t seen them, if it looks like they look different to the deputy that’s working, they’d get any help they needed.”
Thomson says they can’t use any of the glass paneled face-to-face booths because of security reasons.
She explained they’ve explored other options but there’s too many inmates to get them all an equal amount of visitation.
“We understand the frustration that family members are having. We would like the inmates to have more visitation because the inmates are happier when they have visitation,” Thomson added.
Thomson says the new visitation system is web-based.
The inmates will have access to secured tablets so their loved ones will be able to video call them from home or the office, as long as they have Wi-Fi.
She says they’d even be allowed to listen to music or watch movies on a pay system they’re still working out.