Visitation Via Video Conferencing Offers Many Advantages to Correctional Institutions
The U.S. has long had the highest prison population in the world. However, this number has dropped for the past three years.
Many experts credit a new approach to incarceration with reducing the prison population. For example, policies including fewer incarcerations for low-level drug offenders and not automatically imprisoning people for parole violations have lowered the number of people in America's prisons.
Another approach to reducing the prison population involves something as simple as encouraging prison visitation. According to research from the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DoC), prisoners convicted of felonies have a 13 percent lower rate of recidivism, or returning to prison, when they receive visits while they are incarcerated.
Minnesota's DoC also noted a 25 percent drops in revocation for technical violations such as violations of parole or probation. Visits from fathers, siblings, in-laws, mentors and clergy have the greatest effect on reducing recidivism. Interestingly, visits from mothers, spouses and children were less effective.
If increased visitation can reduce the prison population, then prisons need to do all that they can to encourage visitation. Prisoners often feel frustrated because mail takes a long time to process, and phone calls are prohibitively expensive. In-person visitation can be a challenge if a prisoner is far away from his or her family.
One great solutions to increase visitation may be video conferencing. In Maryland, the Beltsville Adventist Community Center is offering its facilities to inmates of the nearby Jessup Corrections Institute. At no cost, prisoners can arrange to be transported to the community center, where they can talk via video conferencing with friends and family members.
Martha Danner of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in Maryland says the program may expand to more prisons if the Jessup pilot is successful. "We think this is better for safety and it is easier on families in that they do not have to travel as far," Danner told Gazette.Net.
Prisons also benefit because they no longer have to search visitors for contraband. They also no longer have to worry about visitor safety within the prison environment.
All of this should go well as long as prisoners aren't allowed to videoconference with their ex-spouses. Visits from exes cause recidivism rates to increase dramatically.