Ventura County jail launching inmate email program
Feb 08, 2013 (Ventura County Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Writing to an inmate in Ventura County jail will no longer mean having to get a postcard and buy a stamp before depositing the card in a mailbox and waiting days for it to be delivered.
Starting Monday, friends, family members and others can send their letters through email.
"We're doing this to create efficiencies and speed up communication between the community and inmates," Linda Oksner, a commander with the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, said this week.
The inmates will receive the email, but only after it is screened by someone at the Ventura County Sheriff's Office to make sure its content is appropriate, Oksner said.
Inmates will not read the electronic version on a computer screen. Rather, the email will be printed and delivered to the inmates, officials said in a statement this week as they announced the new program.
And while outsiders will be able to send emails to those in county jail, inmates will not be able to respond with email.
Instead, their tools of communication with those on the outside will be limited to what has been available to them for many decades now -- the U.S. mail, telephone calls or weekly visits.
Those wanting to use the new system can sign up starting Monday and send their first email to an inmate.
The service is available in three packages. Under the first package, a user can buy 10 emails for $10 plus a $1.50 processing fee, for a total of $11.50. Under the second option, 25 emails can be purchased for $23.76 together with the $1.50 processing fee. The third package enables someone to send 50 emails at a cost of $45 together with the $1.50 processing fee.
Money generated from the program will be used to pay its operation costs and credit-card processing fees, authorities said. Any additional revenue generated will go into the inmate welfare fund trust account, officials said. The account pays for education as well as vocational, recreational and re-entry programs for inmates.
Oksner said the San Diego County Sheriff's Department has a similar program.
"It's worked very well for them," she said.
Authorities in San Diego tell anyone considering sending an email to an inmate that there is no expectation of privacy for email messages.
"Every message will be reviewed by jail staff," they state on the San Diego Sheriff's Department website.
Those writing to inmates in San Diego are also barred from emailing photographs or other attachments. Email messages there are limited to a single page.
Inmates in San Diego are restricted to two emails per day per sender.
Oksner said Ventura County's program will be very similar to San Diego's.
Additional details on the Ventura County program are scheduled to go online Monday.
Emails to Ventura County inmates cannot be more than 4,500 characters. Inmates here can receive up to five emails a day from a sender.
"We're confident this program will benefit everyone, including inmates and their families," Oksner said.
Information on the email program will be posted on the sheriff's website at www.vcsd.org. Once there, click on "VCSD Jail -- Inmate Information" and complete the form to locate an inmate.
Once the inmate's record has been located, users can click on the "email" button and register their billing and contact information, then send an email.
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