Tablets for all at Westmoreland County Prison

·2 min read

Oct. 26—Every inmate at Westmoreland County Prison will have access to new tablets on which they can conduct video visits, make calls or watch movies.

Westmoreland Commissioners on Monday approved a new contract extension with the private company that provides communication services to the jail that officials said will generate more than $60,000 in new revenue for the county through fees paid by inmates to use the devices.

Additional tablets are part of a revamped service agreement with Global Tel Link Corp. to provide telephone and other communication services at the jail in the wake of a Federal Communications Commission order finalized this fall that reduced fees charged to inmates for phone and digital services. The cost of making calls was cut by 9 cents per minute, according to Commissioner Doug Chew, who serves as chairman of the county's prison board.

"Everybody can have a tablet," Chew said.

The revised deal requires the company to increase its minimum payment to the county to $530,000 a year, up from $472,000 for calls, and pay additional 10% commissions on revenue generated by the fees charged to inmates for use of the tablets.

Increased tablet use is expected to offset the federal fee decrease, Chew said.

Warden Bryan Kline said the jail currently has 150 tablets on hand. On Tuesday there were 530 inmates were housed at the jail.

The new deal requires the company provide enough tablets for every inmate at the facility. The jail's capacity is 711 inmates.

"We only allow inmates to have them certain times a day," Kline said of the tablets. Inmates will be issued tablets in the mornings, after breakfast, and must return them by 9 p.m. They cannot remain overnight with the inmates, the warden said.

As part of the one-year contract extension, the company will also install a computerized kiosk at the jail to allow for scheduling of in-person visits with inmates.

Commissioners said the county will solicit proposals next year for a longer-term communications deal.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, or via Twitter .

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