HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Inmates in Henrico County Jail were able to meet in-person with family and friends before COVID-19 halted visitation last March.

Safety protocols have limited inmates to telephone calls during the last year, according to Henrico County.

Now, inmates are getting an upgrade to video calls.

Through a comprehensive jail services contract with Global Tel Link [GTL] — Henrico’s Sheriff’s Office was able to receive 70 multimedia tablets that were designed to be used in correctional facilities.

The tablets have an app called GettingOut installed to support video calls and have the potential for other benefits like educational software or programs for the development of life skills.

“We all know what isolation can do to the psyche. We’ve all experienced it the past year, and we’re not locked up,” Sheriff Alisa A. Gregory said. “A phone call is so different than being able to talk face to face or see each other on a video screen. Plus, having that family connection and support is vital to inmates’ mental health.”

The GettingOut app works similar to softwares like Zoom and FaceTime but offers safety features that are essential for correctional institutions, according to the county. The inmates are also “constantly monitored by jail staff.”

Instructions from Henrico County:

Before participating in a video call with an inmate, a person must download the GettingOut and GettingOut Visits apps for Apple mobile devices or the GTL GettingOut and GO Visits apps for Android devices.

After setting up an account in the GettingOut app, the person will choose Jail West or Jail East, select the inmate’s name and then receive an email or text message to be verified and placed in his or her list of contacts. To accept a call, the person will receive a notification from the app. More information is online.

In general, Henrico inmates in the jails’ general population are allowed one call per week that is scheduled from Friday through Sunday.

“Visitation, meals, telephone – those things are highly valued and can affect the morale of inmates and staff,” Sheriff Gregory said. “Visitation is one of the things that helps things run smoothly.”