03/02/2016
Léon Digard • Margaret diZerega • Allon Yaroni • Joshua Rinaldi

Research shows that prison visitation is integral to the success of incarcerated people, reducing recidivism, facilitating their reentry into the community, and promoting positive parent-child relationships. However, people are often incarcerated long distances from their home communities in areas that are difficult to reach by public transport, creating significant barriers to in-person visitation. Departments of corrections are therefore exploring the use of technology as a means to address some of the visitation needs of those in custody in a cost-effective way. Video visits may not only help bridge the distance between incarcerated people and their loved ones, but may also expand visiting to include a broader array of people who are unable to make in-person visits. While there has been some controversy around the introduction of video visitation in local jails (with some jail jurisdictions eliminating in-person visits entirely), less is known about the use of the technology in state prison systems. This report examines the current landscape of video visitation in prisons nationwide and offers a detailed case study of the Washington State Department of Corrections, an early adopter.