More Video Visitation in Jails Prevents Physical Contact

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Video visitation is on its way to becoming the new normal in jails across the U.S., NPR reports. When video visits come in; in-person visits disappear. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, more than 500 correctional facilities around the U.S. have some form of video visitation. Richard Van Wickler, the superintendent of the Cheshire County, N.H., Jail, signed the jail’s contract for video visits with a firm called Securus. “We were actually reluctant; we were like, ‘Eh, really?’ ” Van Wickler says. “Video visitation, I mean, it’s like another technological advancement of our society that nobody’s really used to. But then we began to see the advantages of it.”

One advantage is less worry about contraband coming in, which means fewer inmate strip searches, which means less staff time. Jails stand to make a profit by adopting this type of visitation. If families do a video visit at the jail, it’s free, but if they do it from their home computer, it can cost $1 per minute. Securus promised the Cheshire County Jail a 20 percent cut of the thousands of dollars those fees bring in. That cut totaled $2,500 for the jail last year. The county paid $30,000 to install the video system. Van Wickler says he is sympathetic to what’s being lost here, but it’s part of the social contract of being incarcerated. “When one violates the law and one has to serve time in a public institution, one of the liberties that one could lose is the opportunity to hug a loved one,” he says. “And you know what? That’s a difficult sanction. That’s hard time.”

 

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