About Inmate Visitation Management

What is inmate video visitation?

Brief History Of Inmate Video Visitation Systems

Inmate video visitation is defined as the use of video, audio, and networking devices to connect visitors and inmates to one another. Inmate video visitation was invented in the 1990s, and has since grown into a multi-million dollar industry. Initial inmate video visitation systems began as complete analog systems, using only analog video and audio devices to connect stations together. Inmate video visitation stations were often connected to one another using a touchscreen application and PBX or analog switches.

As technology has advanced and as the price of digital encoding and decoding devices have dropped, many modern inmate video visitation systems began to utilize IP-based devices to connect inmate video visitation stations together. Much like the television transition from analog to digital signals, the same kind of revolution is happening in the video visitation market today.

Modern inmate video visitation systems are comprised of some of the same components as older systems (cameras, monitors, handsets); however, correctional facilities no longer utilize expensive and non-scalable analog and/or PBX switches. Instead, IP-based inmate video visitation systems use devices called encoders and decoders (when they are one device they are known as codecs) which encode the audio and video feeds as digital signals. These signals, or data packets, are sent via the correctional facility’s IP network infrastructure to another station where they are decoded.

Differences In IP-Based Inmate Video Visitation Systems

The codecs that are used inside each station can be made by several manufacturers; some use proprietary algorithms to encode data, while others use standards-based algorithms. H.264 is the standard that is used by many IP based video and audio systems. Even though these IP devices use H.264, that doesn’t mean that the devices made by different manufacturers can communicate with one another. The handshaking that allows these devices to exchange video and audio capabilities is H.323. H.323 is a standard in videoconferencing systems that allows devices made by different manufacturers to communicate with one another and what allows devices manufactured by Polycom, Tandberg, VCON, Aethra, and Lifesize to connect to one another.

The same H.323 devices are being used in video visitation systems today to allow correctional facilities to expand the capabilities of their inmate video visitation systems. With H.323, facilities can connect their video arraignment, telemedicine, distance education and public defender systems with their inmate video visitation system — providing greater utilization of the system and better return on investment. Another, significant benefit of H.323 is that if a manufacturer stops manufacturing a specific codec, a correctional facility can replace it with a H.264 and H.323-compliant device and connect stations together just as before. This prevents system obsolescence and further improves return on investment.

Inmate Visitation Management Software

Along with the transition to more sophisticated IP-based inmate video visitation systems, there has also been a movement toward more sophisticated inmate visitation management systems. Previously, many analog systems were controlled using simple touchscreen applications: nothing more than telling one station to connect to another. Now, IP-based inmate video visitation systems can be controlled using advanced inmate visitation management systems, such as VisManager from Renovo Software.

Advanced inmate visitation management systems allow correctional facilities to control their entire visitation environment — whether managing face-to-face visits, video visits, internet video visits, or a combination. Inmate visitation management software such as VisManager enables facilities to configure the system to meet their needs, rather than the other way around. Facilities are able to import policies, restrictions, quotas, housing units, time blocks and visitation center times into the system, and allow the system to manage their environment automatically. In addition, VisManager is able to integrate with inmate management systems. This integration streamlines the process, saving valuable staff time and eliminating error. Inmate movements are automatically tracked — verifying whether visits can take place.

Advanced inmate visitation management systems also provide correctional facilities with a number of options for setting-up or scheduling visits. Renovo’s VisManager Inmate Video Visitation System offers the capability for visitors to easily register and schedule visits online. Such features place the responsibility of scheduling visits with those who desire the visit, so that correctional facility staff can focus on other, more productive tasks.

Beyond these features, systems such as Renovo’s VisManager Inmate Video Visitation Management System let correctional facilities more adequately manage their inmate visitation environment; offering a suite of features that simply were not available before.

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