The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Pennsylvania Prison Society offers video links between inmates at remote state prisons and their loved ones in Philadelphia. Through the prison society’s Family Virtual Visitation program and a television hookup, relatives can see, smile at, and talk to their loved ones in the far reaches of the state prison system.
The idea for the program started in 2001, when prison officials identified dozens of inmates who hadn’t had a visit in a year, says the prison society’s executive director, Bill DiMascio. The program was initially funded through a three-year federal grant. Now the state Department of Corrections picks up the tab – $93,000 last fiscal year, a tiny fraction of its $1.6 billion budget. Eight of the state’s 25 prisons participate. Inmates apply and put relatives on a visitors list. Families can come once a month, paying $20 for a 55-minute visit.