A new New York State program of prison visits via closed-circuit TV is set to more than quadruple in size this fall, the New York Daily News reports. “The research shows that people will do better when they're released if they stay connected with their families,” said Elizabeth Gaynes of the Osborne Association, a nonprofit that has been conducting the meetings known as televisits for the past two years. The program has been confined to a women' s prison, allowing children to meet with their mothers. It will soon expand to three male-only facilities.
Visiting New York' s remote prisons, some located more than a 10-hour bus ride away from the city, can be daunting and expensive. A free bus service was discontinued last year, further reducing options to relatives of some 56,000 inmates. In the televisits, mothers typically read books to their kids and have long talks. In one instance, a girl played her mom a school play performance on tape. Families talk on a large-screen TV that looks very much like a computer Skype window. because most of New York 's prisons lack Internet connections or cell service (cell phones are considered contraband), facilitating the hookup requires infrastructure work. The practice of video-streamed visits have been growing around the U.S., with some states charging for the service. Washington, D.C., switched all jail visits to televised ones, drawing criticism from some advocates and inmates' relatives.