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Maine jail wants to ban in-person inmate visits

June 9, 2013

ALFRED, Maine (AP) — The York County Jail is proposing to end in-person visits between inmates and their families and friends to cut down on the amount of drugs, tobacco and other contraband being smuggled in.

If the state Department of Corrections approves his application, Jail Administrator Michael Vitiello said he’ll expand the jail’s video visitation program to allow more visits for inmates by video. The jail offers two hours of in-person visits per month on weekend days.

Jails nationwide are eliminating in-person inmate visits in an effort to boost jail security, Vitiello and Sheriff Maurice Ouellette told the Journal Tribune of Biddeford.

“We’re trying to eliminate as much contraband inside the facility as we can,” said Ouellette.

Attorney Zachary Heiden of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said video visitation can be a valid supplement to in-person visits, but that eliminating them for all inmates is too drastic. He said there are consequences for people caught smuggling contraband, and that Vitiello’s proposal punishes all inmates — even those who haven’t broken any rules.

Irving Faunce, whose son Gordon Collins-Faunce is in the York County Jail awaiting trial on a murder charge in connection with the death of his infant son last year, said in-person visits are vital. Faunce and his wife drive two hours to see their son for an hour on Sundays two weekends a month.

“Holding the hands of someone we love, even if it is across a cold metal table, becomes as precious as gold,” Faunce said in a letter opposing the change.

Corrections Department spokesman Scott Fish said only high-risk inmates are now allowed to be restricted to video visitations. The application will be reviewed by the department and the Office of the Attorney General, he said.

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Information from: Journal Tribune, http://www.journaltribune.com

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