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Examining Video Visitation in Prison

NCJ Number
Techbeat Dated: June 2016 Pages: 8-11
Michele Coppola
Date Published
June 2016
4 pages
This article examines the benefits and challenges of video visits for prison inmates.

Funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), a case study was conducted of Washington State's use of prison video visitation. An outside vendor installed and operates the video system. The case study included a survey whose results were presented in a 2016 report, "A New Role for Technology? Implementing Video Visitation in Prison." The benefits of inmate video visitation include the facilitation of visits with family members who live a long distance from the prison or who cannot physically visit the prison for some reason. Another benefit is that visits can be scheduled for other than regular visiting hours. A video visit in one of Washington State's prisons lasts 30 minutes and costs the visitor $12.95. Visitors can extend the time to an hour for an additional $12.95. Of the 15 States that allow video prison visits, 10 charge users a fee. A prison's dense walls can require that a wired Internet be in place, rather than wireless connections, so as to increase the reliability of the system. Departments of correction can choose a self-owned, installed and operated system or a contracted system under which the vendor installs, maintains, and manages the system, which can save on costs. Implementation and operational costs of a video visitation system can be minimal when an agency uses a full-service provider that bundles a video visitation system with other services, such as email and money transfer. The experience in Washington State shows that by partnering with a private vendor that is also contracted to provide other electronic services to prisons will have a negligible impact on the corrections department's budget.