Family visits to inmates go virtual with virus measures

Maldives Correctional Service tests its video call arrangements, designed to replace family visits. (Photo/Maldives Correctional Service)

Maldives Correctional Service, on Thursday, announced it has made arrangements for family visits to inmates to be made via video conferencing.

Maldives Correctional Service had compiled a Policy on Granting Video Call Rights to Inmates, following the suspension of family visits and conjugal visits to prevent a possible COVID-19 outbreak in prisons, after Maldives declared a state of public health emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Maldives Correctional Service, the purpose of establishing video conference arrangements is “to avoid any disintegration of family relationships and allow family relations to go uninterrupted during emergencies, circumstances which require the suspension of physical family visits by this service, circumstances where families are unable to pay physical family visits, and any other such circumstances.”

Under the new policy, each inmate will receive the right to a 15-minute video call via Skype twice a month.

And if an inmate has a family member hospitalized, is denied furlough to attend the funeral of a family member, is denied furlough for the birth of a child, or is denied furlough for the circumcision of a child, the inmate will have the right to an additional 15-minute video call.

Families can apply for video calls starting from April 5. They have been instructed to fill out the form available on Maldives Correctional Service’s website, and email it to [email protected]

Similar arrangements are now available for use in the event attorney visits also need to be suspended, it said.

Attorney visits will be replaced by 15-minute video calls, which will be available from 10 am to 3 pm every day, except for Fridays.

According to the new policy, if there is no response within 5 minutes of the scheduled time for the video call, the call will be cancelled, and another video call opportunity will require a new application.

An officer will be present to monitor the call, and no additional parties, except for those who have applied to participate in the video call, must be present or take part in the conversation.

Those who partake in the video call are required to stick to language and gestures which does not violate social standards, and must also be clothed in suitable attire.

Recording the video call, taking screen shots, and sharing such images and videos is prohibited, and such violations will be reported to the police for investigation.

Any violation of the policy will also be met with an immediate one-month suspension of video call rights.