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Visitors face glitches with video visits at Lake County Jail

hirley Crawford 63 KenoshWis. sits with her daughter Marilyn Murphy 34 Ziwhile they video chwith her sbut only one two

hirley Crawford, 63, of Kenosha, Wis., sits with her daughter Marilyn Murphy, 34, of Zion, while they video chat with her son, but only one of the two telephones was working so they took turns. | Frank Abderholden/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 19, 2014 4:21AM

Video visitation for family members and friends of inmates at Lake County Jail is being discounted over the holidays from the regular $20 to $10 when making the call from your home, office, library or other computer.

But free video visits from the jail seem to be having some technical difficulties.

Steven Hansen, field technician for Securus Technologies, the company that runs the system, said that so far they have 147 people who signed up for the accounts so they can call inmates at pre-scheduled times from outside the jail. The holiday discount is good for visits scheduled before Jan. 15. Any scheduled after that date are $20.

But according to one woman and her mother, who were visiting the jail and using one of the 10 free terminals available, they really didn’t like using the system at the jail because it doesn’t always work.

But if either of them ever got a computer for their homes, they would certainly use it.

Marilyn Murphy, 34, of Zion was having a 30-minute video visit with her son who was locked up for a parole violation. He was on parole on charges of possessing a gun, she said. According to Murphy, he was pulled over by police on a traffic stop for going to far into an intersection at a traffic light and since that constituted contact with police, he was charged with a parole violation and put into jail.

“Some things should be overlooked,” she said, shaking her head. Visiting her son with her was her mother, Shirley Crawford, 63, of Kenosha, Wis.

Both agreed that visiting from home would be the best. “But I don’t have a computer at home. I wish I had the income for it,” said Murphy.

“From the privacy of your own home,” declared Crawford, “Yes, that would be awesome,” she said.

But the women were having a problem on this day that they said happens often.There are two telephones on the terminal so two people can listen and talk with the inmate at the same time. The inmate is using a similar terminal in his jail pod. Hansen said there are four terminals on each floor.

The problem Murphy and Crawford were having was that only one telephone worked, so grandma waited while her daughter talked to her son.

“A lot of times you’re trying to talk to your loved one and the phone on their end doesn’t work,” she said. That means the inmate has to get a guard to come over and confirm the telephone is not working, “Then they send you over for an actual visit,” she said, which means seeing the person on the other side of the glass and talking through a telephone.

Because of the problems she has had with the video terminal inside the jail at 15 S. Martin Luther King Jr., Ave., Waukegan, which are free, she would rather see the inmate in person. “I don’t like it. I like when you can physically see them,” she said.

“It’s a huge problem,” she said, “On Thanksgiving, I was not the only family that had problems.”

She explained that the computer told her that her son had already had a visit from her. She was able to get a lieutenant to go into the system, but apparently he couldn’t override the problem.

“So they sent up to the other side (for a physical visit) and I still didn’t get to see him,” she said. “Three other families went through that. I was very upset, it was the holidays. I wanted to see him. I came all the way down here and did not get to visit him,” she said.

Video visits, from the jail or from a home, office or library, can be made from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but there periods for lunch, shift change and dinner that are blocked out.

To set up an account, you can go to and click on “Sign up.” You will need to submit a name, address, and photo identification. Once the account is created and validated, you will need approval by the correctional facility before you can begin scheduling visits. Even attorneys can use the system.

Hansen was asked if they have had problems with video sex, where a visitor was inappropriate from the privacy of their home. “The officers can see the screens. The guards see what’s going on,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had an incident,” he said.

Securus Technologies is a privately-held company in Dallas, Texas. The company website said they serve approximately 2,200 correctional facilities and more than 850,000 inmates nationwide.

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