Securus tablet program, Securus Video ConnectSM, VideoGrams
Facility: Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, Downtown Detention Center, Tennessee
Contact: Sheriff Daron Hall
Situation: Sheriff Daron Hall wanted to give incarcerated individuals more opportunities to connect with family and friends to supplement in-person visits. During COVID, the need of having digital communication tools became even more important to help prevent the spread of the virus as well as offer incarcerated residents a way to keep bonds strong with loved ones during this stressful time. Studies show that incarcerated residents who keep in touch with supportive loved ones have a stronger chance of having a successful reentry.
Securus’ technology aids in keeping the facility population safe from COVID since the communication is not face-to-face. Additionally, these digital solutions also eliminated the movement of incarcerated individuals to an area where they can communicate with family, friends and attorneys; therefore, preventing the possible exposure of the virus to more people.
Solution: Securus tablet program, Securus Video ConnectSM, VideoGrams
Results: Securus Technologies® offers the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office Securus tablets and Securus Video ConnectSM as a safe and secure way for incarcerated individuals to communicate with family, friends and attorneys. Incarcerated residents can connect with their loved ones with ease through the app via the Securus tablet program.
When it comes to Securus Video Connect, contacts can schedule and participate in video sessions with an incarcerated loved one from anywhere with internet access using a smartphone, tablet or PC.
This web-based tool provides family and friends limitless opportunities to connect with an incarcerated individual.
“Research is clear— inmates who are able to communicate with loved ones and have positive interactions have reduced stress levels,” stated Sheriff Daron Hall. “That, in turn, reduces the staff stress.”
“I feel speaking with my son motivates him and gives me motivation,” explained Jeverish Williams, an incarcerated individual at the Downtown Detention Center (DDC), one of the facilities of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
Williams adds that staying connected with his family gives him confidence to say, “Just because I failed does not mean I was a horrible guy. I just made a mistake,” he said. “It’s not over with me, I can still do what I used to do before incarceration. I ran a janitorial service and helped the Meals on Wheels program in the Nashville area.”
At the DDC, Securus tablets provide a way for incarcerated individuals to avoid crowded hall phones. Instead, they are able to call family and friends from the safety of their bunks.
“Because of Securus, we were able to provide tools allowing inmates to communicate with their families,” Hall added. “We were able to provide tablets to isolate. If it would not have been for that, we would have exposed more staff and more inmates to COVID.”
The COVID outbreak began in the facility in early March. By November, 112 staff and approximately 350 incarcerated individuals had tested positive for the contagion. On March 15 as a health precaution, in-person visits were discontinued. At this writing, there are six staff members and zero incarcerated residents who have positive test results for this virus. Hall calls the pandemic, “the most difficult situation in 30 years,” and emphasizes the agency needed a way to bring down the anxiety of incarcerated residents.
“Anxiety is often brought down by communication with loved ones. Inmates were nervous, families had anxiety,” Hall explained. The tablet communication with the ability to have private conversations such as discussing medical information and the ability to go into your cell as opposed to the day area provided a better environment for family and inmates.”
Adrian Ross, a person incarcerated at the DDC, agrees. He explains that connecting with loved ones on the Securus tablet from his bunk not only gives him peace of mind by not contracting germs of a shared phone but also provides him privacy to discuss how his family is doing during COVID.
“Being able to call anytime to make sure family is doing well is amazing. I think the tablets are a thing that a lot of jails should offer,” Ross stated. “Being able to share time with my kids brings up their morale. Also, sometimes I’m having a bad day. When they say, ‘I love you’, that brings you closer to them.”
Williams enjoys not having to wait to call loved ones at designated times. However, what he cherishes most about contacting his family via the Securus tablet is being able to check on his families’ health, which he states brings down his stress level.
“It’s a pretty emotional experience because I feel like I’m on a personal cell phone. On a scale of one to 10, I give the tablets a 10 on emotion,” Williams emphasized. “Happiness is being able to speak to my son about what’s going on with school, homework and birthday parties.”
Hall explains that anytime an incarcerated individual is engaged with loved ones through a device, it results in more time for his staff to focus on their primary duties. Additionally, the communication improves the work environment.
“If an inmate doesn’t have anything to do, then idle time is not the best place for jails to be successful,” he stated. “The tablet communication allows for positive engagement. It reduces the tension, which ultimately makes for a better shift and a better day for our staff.”
Hall adds the tablets help solve several past challenges at the DDC such as a limited number of wall phones and incarcerated individuals’ limited access for phone conversations. That situation led to fights among incarcerated residents and friction over the length of time one had on a phone.
“With tablets, we don’t have to wait in a long line waiting for a call. Tablets deter phone battles by 100%,” Ross revealed.
He says an incarcerated individual may not want to get off a call in a hall phone, but with the tablet phone app, he can call when he needs to.
“When staying in touch is difficult, you lose sensitivity with others,” Ross emphasized. “But when you’re talking to your loved ones, you can stay up on current events, which makes you feel like you’re not locked up. If you have someone to count on, then you can focus on your mistakes and better yourself.”
Williams feels the communication via the tablets makes a positive impact on his life as well.
“It’s very important. Even though I’m incarcerated, I still need to be a husband, father, and brother and keep up with what’s going on with the environment and the world,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Ross shares that another digital solution makes a positive impact on his life. He enjoys the convenience of his loved ones being able to add money on his Securus Debit account, which he describes as, “simple to use and saves my loved ones time”. The incarcerated individual-owned prepaid calling account is used to pay for their own calls. Additionally, correctional facilities have the option to allow friends and family to deposit funds directly into the debit account. Ross also enjoys the ease of the tablet phone app.
“The phone app is high quality. I haven’t had problems with Securus dropping calls with the tablet phone app like the problems we had before we switched to Securus,” he added.
To prepare for a successful job upon reentry, Ross utilizes the tablet betterment content. His favorite program shows users how to start their own company. As part of his preparation for reintegration, he also reads eBooks and calls the variety “endless”. He adds that the movies and TV shows via the personal tablet take his mind off the stress of his court case.
For Williams, it is the religious programming on the community tablets that lifts him up. Securus offers equal access to incarcerated individuals with free betterment content with not only religion but also education, professional development, job search, parenting skills and mental health.
“I feel it’s kinda like having my own private church section,” he stated. “It has services that empower you to know it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s about what you do going forward.”
“The tablet gives me everything I need day by day. I always find something,” Ross emphasized. “I also enjoy being able to see people that I love and learn they’re doing well through VideoGrams.”
With VideoGrams, a loved one records a video by using a computer webcam and then sends it as an attachment to the incarcerated individual through Securus eMessaging. The VideoGram is limited to 30 seconds. The sheriff’s office also provides incarcerated residents another form of video communication to give them another opportunity to connect with contacts in addition to in-person visits, which were offered before COVID.
“Securus Video ConnectSM was installed in an area within the jail’s housing units. Those units were originally built and designed for friends and family. Because of COVID, we asked Securus to alter that plan so that those same devices could provide video access to attorneys,” Sheriff Hall explained. “So as courts were being shut down, we had to come up with a way for communication and allow the constitutional rights to be guaranteed with access to an attorney.”
Attorneys are able to enter the facility and link into the housing units without requiring the staff to move the incarcerated individual, so Hall says Securus Video ConnectSM saved the agency “money, time and exposure”.
“Since Video Connect also helps attorneys in the court system, it is an invaluable tool. We really appreciate Securus working with us and assisting in this plan,” he added.
“By using Video Connect with my attorney, I get a lot more done,” Ross emphasized. “You get on the tablet app and request a time. 10 minutes can change your life.”