Changes to guidelines at Tulsa County Jail restrict visitors and reduce days

TULSA -- Changes are in the works at the Tulsa County Jail. 

A new policy said only immediate family members can visit inmates in prison. That means no girlfriends, boyfriends, fiances or friends. 

Kirk Peterson, who was released from jail today after 30 days, said the change is not worth it. 

"There was a lot of noise from the inmates when the announcement came," Peterson said.

Only immediate family will be able to visit an inmate in person. They will now only be allowed to visit two days a week, rather than six. 

Sheriff Vic Regalado said as it is now, the pods would rotate the days they had visitation, so each pod only got three days. Because of that, he said the changes will only reduce visitation by one day. 

Even though they are cutting back the time and adding more restrictions, Jail Administrator David Parker said they do believe visitation is important. 

"It enables you once released from jail or prison to have a better foundation to stand on to try to be successful," Parker said.

Family members will have to undergo background checks before they can visit. Also, family members who have spent time in jail in the last three years will not be able to visit in person. 

If a family member has been in jail recently or someone does not fall into the category of immediate family, they can use a system similar to Skype or FaceTime to communicate. It is called Homewav.

"Homewav can be accessed for free from the jail, but if you choose to do it from the comfort of your home, the cost for that per minute is 50 cents," Sheriff Regaldo said. "We are currently in the process of lowering that to 20 cents per minute." 

Regalado said Homewav can be used between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Visitors can download an app on their phone and talk to loved ones that way or on their computers. 

The reason they are decreasing visitation is money. The sheriff's office said they will save $500,000 per year. The eight employees usually assigned to visitation will be moved to other roles in the jail. 

As someone who spent time locked up, Peterson thinks the changes are harsh. 

"I'm not one to calculate the value of that monetarily, but the value to the inmates is unmistakable and they are real people, just like everyone else," Peterson said.

The changes will go into effect in the beginning of August. 

Parker said about a week before the visitation shifts, background check applications will be up on their website. He said it will take a week to process the background check. 

In person visitation for immediate family will take place Sundays and Mondays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The lobby of the jail will now only be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The sheriff's office anticipates the change in hours will save them $55,000. 

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