This brief document describes the benefits of family visits to incarcerated parents, 12 best practices for video visiting, and a list of additional resources.
This document states that visiting is an essential way for families to maintain and strengthen relationships during a family member’s incarceration, especially for children of those incarcerated individuals. However, it acknowledges that in-person visits are not always possible due to costs related to long-distance travel, including transportation, childcare, and time off from work, as well as other institutional policies that might limit in-person contact, such as mandated non-contact visits as demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic. To address those issues that might get in the way of in-person visits, it suggests video visiting options that may mitigate difficulties associated with in-person visiting; video visiting may also offer benefits such as: limiting long-distance travel; facilitating consistent communication; allowing for convenience and flexibility; and offering incarcerated parents the ability to be a part of their child’s home life. It provides a discussion of the following 12 best practices for video visits: offer them as a supplement to in-person visits, not as a replacement; provide video visiting options that are free to families; offer families flexibility in the location of video visits; be responsive to children’s and families’ schedules; embrace, expand, and support technological capacity; engage families in activities and play; create spaces that are conducive to incarcerated parents’ virtual engagement with children; develop humanizing policies for how families are permitted to engage during video visits; give families easy access to policies about video visiting; provide support before, during, and after visits; establish strong feedback mechanisms; and train correctional staff on all of the best practices.