Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has developed a new, user-friendly video visitation system that includes an online scheduling component. Beginning on August 19, individuals already on inmate visitor lists can schedule future video visits using the new system. A link to that system will be provided closer to August 19, so individuals are encouraged to visit the DOC website for updates.
"We are pleased to offer inmate visitors with a streamlined and easier-to-use system," said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. "We understand the importance of helping inmates maintain their connections with the outside world, especially during COVID-19. This system will allow for easier scheduling and will require less staff involvement."
The DOC has offered video visits through ZOOM since March 2020, but beginning September 1, the agency will change to a new system that has a scheduling component integrated into it and that eliminates the need for facility employee involvement.
Secretary Wetzel confirmed that video visits are not going away, and that the DOC is simply enhancing this service, which will continue to be free to all inmates and visitors.
During this transition, scheduled ZOOM visits will continue to be held through August 30. Individuals wishing to schedule a video visit for a date before August 30 must follow existing scheduling procedures by emailing the facility. Visiting slots available through August 30 are filling up quickly, and once filled, visitors will have to use the new system to schedule visits beyond September 1. DOC officials are using August 31 as a transition day, so no video visits will be held on that day.
On August 19, the DOC will publish the new system on the DOC website for visitors to use to schedule video visits via the new system for visits scheduled beginning September 1. With this new system, video visits must be scheduled at least three days but no more than two months in advance.
Also, up to six approved visitors will be permitted to participate in the video visits. Similar to the DOC's current delivery of video visits, in order to participate visitors must be on the inmate's approved visitors list and must follow all visiting rules.
In-person visits will not be reinstated until the COVID-19 risk goes down. When determined appropriate to reinstate in-person visits, they will be reinstated with modified procedures.
"Video visits will remain a visiting option forever, even when in-person visits are restored," Wetzel said.