Warden: Smartphone app for inmate video calls reduces contraband risk

Officials are also considering making prison mail digital to boost safety for staff

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

COAL TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Friends and family of Northumberland County Prison inmates can now visit their loved ones through their smartphones, thanks to a program introduced by Warden Bruce Kovach.

The smartphone app is called "IC Solutions Online," which allows inmates to make video calls from inside the new prison, Kovach said.

"I saw this in a trade book and I called and inquired," Kovach said. "Once I met with the company, I found out it would not cost the county a dime and only benefit our inmate population."

Family and friends are also permitted to come to the jail's administrative building lobby and use on-site booths for in-person visits once per week at no cost. The cost to speak with an incarcerated person on the smartphone app is $10, Kovach said.

"People can visit from home on a computer or smart device," the warden said. "This is a great idea because it allows children to speak to their loved ones without having to enter the jail."

Northumberland County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano said he was impressed with the system.

"It's just a great way for people to visit without having to worry about traveling to the jail," he said. "It's also good because with these types of visits, it gets rid of the chance of any contraband being brought in to the jail."

Kovach also said the jail is looking at adding inmate emails.

"The cost is less than the cost of postage," he said. "The use of electronic visiting and messaging is twofold. It offers the inmates and their families more opportunity to stay connected and reduces the avenues of contraband introduction which makes it safer for both the inmate population and staff. Lastly, in the age of electronic media we are keeping with the times."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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