Technology in Corrections - Video Visiting & Calling
"Inmates in prisons across Alabama would soon have access to tablet computers under a new plan by the state Department of Corrections aimed in part at reducing the high cost of calling home from behind bars."
"Of the many difficulties incarcerated people face, losing contact with loved ones may be among the most damaging. Research has shown that maintaining community ties can improve their health and well-being, decrease their sense of isolation, reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress, and improve their feelings of control and involvement in family life. Furthermore, research suggests that receiving any visit at all during incarceration reduces the risk of someone committing a new offense or violating conditions of parole when they are released. Thus, visits with loved ones form a lifeline to the outside world for incarcerated people and help pave the way back into society. As the number of visits a person receives increases, so do their chances of success in the community.
"In 2012, NIJ awarded the Vera Institute of Justice a multiyear grant to conduct the first-ever systemwide evaluation of video visitation technology for prisons. The study is using a mixed-methods design to better understand how to create policies about family-inmate contact, inform investment decisions and policies related to video visitation technology, and to understand video visitation’s role in reducing recidivism."
"Jailhouse visits like this one between family members and inmates are starting to make a comeback, replacing a decades long trend of requiring families to use Skype-like video technology in which families dial in from a computer at home, a public library or inside the jail itself to talk to a loved one who is incarcerated."
This is the most comprehensive website you will find about the for-profit video visitation industry. It is essential reading for anyone considering using a for-profit video visitation system in their correctional facility. "Video technology like Skype or FaceTime can be a great way to stay together for people who are far apart. It is not the same as being there in person, but it is better than a phone call or sending a letter. Given that there are 2.2 million people who are incarcerated, often many hundreds of miles from their homes, it should be no surprise that prison and jail video visitation is quietly sweeping the nation" (p. i). This website provides access to the full report, an executive summary, and a press release. Sections of the report include: introduction; reviewing the promises and drawbacks of video visitation; video visitation reaches critical mass in 2014; why families are unhappy with the for-profit industry; what this industry is doing--major themes; broken promises from the industry; how are Securus video contracts different from other companies; possible problems with correctional and policy best practices; video visitation can be a welcome step forward—HomeWAV and Telmate systems compared to Securus and other large companies; and recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state regulators and legislatures, correctional officials and procurement officials, and for-profit companies . Also supplied is an incredible array of exhibits that include: Facilities with Video Visitation; Fee Breakdown; Counties with Bans on In-person Visits; various legal complaints; and copies of contracts for Securus (11 different contracts), Telmate (2), ICSolutions (1), Global Tel (1), HomeWAV (2), TurnKey (2), and Tele Coin (1).
"A federal appeals court on Tuesday said regulators went too far in trying to rein in the high cost of phone calls for prison inmates. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with phone service companies in finding that the Federal Communications Commission had exceeded its authority. The ruling is a setback for prison reform advocates who have been fighting for years to reduce the prices imposed by a handful of private companies."
The more incarcerated people get to visit with their loved ones while they’re serving time, the less likely they are to reoffend later on. Research has repeatedly shown it. Just where video visitation rights fall into that, though, has become a serious point of contention.
This publication explains how video visitation negatively impacts the families of inmates. "While prison advocates have long anticipated the technology that would allow for video visits as a way to increase communication between incarcerated individuals, their family, and community members, it was always envisioned as a supplement to in-person visitation. The reality of incarceration is that many individuals are assigned to units in rural communities, far away from their loved ones, burdening mostly low-income families with travel and lodging expenses far beyond their means. When one’s family does not have a vehicle, lives hundreds of miles away, and simply cannot afford the trip, a visit via video would be welcomed. But advocates always envisioned a choice for families with incarcerated loved ones as to whether or not they would make those sacrifices in order to support them – a choice that should be left in the hands of those with the most stake in the matter. Video-only visitation policies strip away that choice; they are simply another outgrowth of the idea that offering services to prisoners and their families can be commercialized" (p. 2). Sections of this publication include: introduction—significant expense and skyrocketing costs, disruptions to family bonding, removal of management tool, usage difficulties due to digital divide, and privacy violations; the benefits of in-person prison and jail visitation; growing restrictions on in-person visitation at the county level; whether limiting in-person visitation will decrease violence and contraband—a case study of Travis County, Texas—once in-person visitation was eliminated disciplinary infractions and incidents, inmate-on-inmate assaults, and inmate-on-staff assaults have increased significantly; money, money, money; conclusion; and four recommendations.
"The purpose of this guide is to inform the development of video visiting programs within a correctional setting. “Video visiting” is real-time interactive video communication which uses video conferencing technology or virtual software programs, such as Skype. It is an increasingly popular form of communication between separated family members in settings outside of corrections. The rapid expansion of video visiting in jails and prisons over the past few years suggests that video visiting may become very common in corrections in the near future.
"This guide will help inform administrators about the benefits and challenges of using some common video visiting models across a variety of settings. Video visiting can be a positive enhancement to in-person visiting, and has the potential to promote positive outcomes for incarcerated individuals and their families and communities. In certain circumstances, video visiting may benefit corrections by reducing costs, improving safety and security, and allowing for more flexibility in designating visiting hours. The value of video visiting can be maximized when the goals of the facility are balanced with the needs of incarcerated individuals and their families" (p. vii).
This guide is comprised of three chapters: why consider video visiting; implementation considerations; and evaluating a video visiting program. Appendixes cover: additional uses for video conferencing in corrections; video visiting with children; identifying a video visiting model; implementation checklist; and evaluation tools.