In March of 2020, the entire world navigated the unprecedented waves of a global pandemic forced into instant dependence on technology to stay connected with loved ones. Suddenly video communication became a vital tool to maintain any semblance of normalcy. Inmates depend on visitation times to stay connected to loved ones. Many facilities incorporated video message features, video visitations, and tablets for inmates over the last few years. VendEngine, the leader in Video Visitation software, introduced this feature to over 80 facilities across the country, giving inmates the ability to connect with loved ones.  With the new era of technology entering facilities nationwide, Video Visitation became a lifeline to inmates and their loved ones during facility visitation closures and all the uncertainties of in-person communication due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Morgan County Jail in Alabama faced these same pandemic challenges. Morgan County Jail is not unlike most facilities, a sizable facility housing +600 inmates with the mission to serve and protect all citizens of their community. However, like many facilities across the country, they encountered a crisis without precedence. With the jail doors closing to the public, Morgan County faced a defining moment in the lives of those they swore to protect.

“Just like the rest of the world, COVID-19 brought an onslaught of challenges, heartbreak, fear, and facing the unknown for facilities. Precautions had to be put into action to protect the staff members and inmates housed in our facility. The number one priority for our facility was to do what we could to prevent the virus from being introduced into our facility. The change that would impact our inmate population the most would be the necessary pause for on-site video visitation. We feared that this would negatively impact our inmate population who rely on staying connected with loved ones. However, in the usual fashion, Vendengine stepped to the plate to provide a solution. Thanks to the off-site video visitation technology, our inmates were able to keep in touch with their family members,” shared Lt. Richard Moats from Morgan Co. Alabama Jail.

“Several of our inmates had family members in the high-risk category and this tool helped those individuals to communicate with family members by more than just a phone call. Though the pandemic brought much sorrow and sadness, thanks to the Vendengine video visitation system, hundreds of people received a small bit of joy from speaking to their loved ones. VendEngine proved to be an invaluable asset, even in the most unpredictable of times,” said Moats.

Staying connected may be something the world took for granted before 2020, but for incarcerated individuals, it can be the only access to the outside world for months or even years. Studies have shown that staying connected to loved ones during incarceration reduces recidivism by maintaining their relationships with their family and friends on the outside. Jails like Morgan Co. have seen how video communication and integrated jail systems can improve morale and inmate success in facilities and the rest of their lives. This direct impact on the lives of thousands of inmates across the country is why VendEngine donated over 40 million free hours of video visitation in 2020 to families affected by pandemic closures. The opportunity technology offers to incarcerated individuals and facility systems are reforming the re-entry process and setting individuals up for success upon release. Continued integration and connectivity can propel inmates and facilities to grow these systems for generations to come.

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