Video visits to prisoners in jail

May 7, 2009

The relatives of prisoners in Thai jails have begun visiting them via an online video-conference link from their homes.Correction Department director general Nathee Chitsawang said this week that the department had developed and was currently expanding a video-conference project called the Correction e-Visiting from Home service.

Information technology is being used to allow the families and relatives of prisoners to make “visits” from computers at home or from call centres, rather than travelling to distant jails. Prisoners located at any of the department’s jails will be accessible, as long as the new e-visiting service has been implemented in the relevant institution.

For those without computers at home, the department has created call centres in the Correction Department in Bangkok and at Chiang Mai’s central prison as points from which relatives may establish a video-conference link with prisoners in 43 jails around the country.

The service costs the “visitors” a service fee of Bt100 for 18 minutes.

The video-conferences allow up to five people to “visit” a prisoner at one time. Families must register their intention to make a conference call with the department and reserve a suitable time. This can be done by telephone, letter, or by logging on to

Bookings for online “visits” must be made at least 10 days in advance to allow time for official checks to confirm that applicants are, in fact, family members or relatives.

At present, the Correction Department offers a limited e-visiting service about 40 times per month.

Nathee said eight more call-centres would be set up, as points from which relatives could make the video-conference “visits”. Within a few years, these will be able to connect with 130 of the department’s 143 jails around the country.

“We believe that e-visiting will create benefits for families, relatives and prisoners because they will be able to maintain contact by visiting online without spending time to travel to prisons or the Correction Department. It will also help relatives to save the costs of making prison visits,” Nathee said.

Meanwhile, the department is also implementing an Image Identification System so that its officials and jails around the country can access and search a prison database via the Internet.

As well, the department is developing an e-marketing channel to display a catalogue of products made by prisoners at jails around the country, effectively creating a showroom of prison products. Customers will be able to contact prisons directly to purchase products.

Nathee said that as a next step, the department was planning to provide for e-commerce transactions.

Thailand currently has about 200,000 prisoners in jails around the country, and 10,000 jail staff.

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