VideoVisit

VideoVisit is a pioneering, terminal based model for inmate visitations via video conferencing. The new technology, affordability, and intuitive scheduling helps to extensively simplify and straighten out the daily organisation of prison visits. But, most importantly, it makes it easier for inmates to remain in touch with family and friends, a critical recidivism factor in an ex-offender's return to society.

VideoVisit supports all facilities that are challenged with physical visits and require high quality video visits. The system is not supposed to be a permanent substitute for a physical visit. But it is far superior to no visit at all. In fact, VideoVisit is actually preferred by many given the option of time and effort involved in coordinating physical visits; and the costs required for traveling long distances, taking time off from work, of course, for low and mid-income family members, and other reasons. Furthermore, prison duration shows that the longer an inmate is in prison, the less likely he or she is to receive visitors. Isolation, though, impedes a successful return to society.

And prison staff too benefits from VideoVisit. It primarily means a huge workload relief for them: visitor registration and security checks, moving around visitors and inmates and finally visitation supervision do fall away. Security is enhanced compared to a physical visit as there is no possibility of contraband (drugs, weapons, cell phones etc.) being smuggled into the facility. So VideoVisit makes a clear and sustainable contribution to enhancing the public safety and order in correctional facilities.

Technical components:

  • touchscreen panels
  • stainless steel housing
  • webcam
  • microphone
  • loudspeaker

 

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Emmanuel, Adeshina: 'In-Person Visits Fade as Jails Set Up Video Units for Inmates and Families', in: The New York Times, August 7, 2012.

Growing Trend in the US Corrections Field: Video Visitations

The US has the highest, formally documented incarceration rate of the world with more than 2.3 million people, women, men and youths, currently serving their sentences in prisons or jails. This corrensponds to a 500% increase over the past 30 years.

These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and numerous associated organisational problems. And broad efforts are now underway to solve these by using new technologies that ease and automate the day-to-day work processes in the facilities.

A much reduced workload for the prison staff accompanies the switch-over from in-person visits to video visitations. Too convincing are the advantages arising for everyone involved.

Jeremy Travis, past director of the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department's research arm, predicts video visitations an "enormous potential". He puts special emphasis on the positive effects that more frequent visits have, for instance, on children who have a parent in prison. They get the opportunity to enhance their relationship which is of enormous importance for both sides. Travis and other experts are, therefore, forecasting that, in the long term, video visitations will become widespread throughout the US.