The notion of keeping convicted prisoners connected to the outside world has its benefits.
According to federal and state research, individuals are less likely to commit crimes after their release from prison, if they have had family visits while incarcerated. The Minnesota Department of Corrections, for instance, found a single visit decreased recidivism by 13% for new crimes and 25% for technical violations.
However, face-to-face visitations can cause problems for correctional facilities that they would rather prevent, such as the threat of having visitors to smuggle contraband inside the facilities. One solution to the issue of visitation that is growing in popularity is setting up video visitation kiosks, and state and local government officials see cost-savings and value in reducing risks typically associated with traditional visitation.
Bastrop County Jail in Texas ended face-to-face visits in 2014 to save staff time and labor costs for conducting visitations. Officials also found a reduction in traffic inside and outside of the facilities and in waiting periods for visitors by giving them the ability to schedule specific visit times.
“It allows us to enhance visitation hours at more convenient times for family members.” Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering in the Statesman.
States Using Video Visitations
Despite concerns by prison reform advocates, more than 500 facilities in 43 states and the District of Columbia are experimenting with this new technological wave of visiting inmates.
Onvia’s Project Center found that there have been nearly 300 bids and RFPs with 127 awards issued since January 2013. Awarded contract values ranged from $25,000 to $500,000.
Major Companies Offering Video Visitation
to Correctional Facilities Across the U.S.:
Video Visitation vs. In-Person Visits
Advocates for video visitation systems agree that it isn’t a perfect solution to inmate-to-family interaction.
Quartz reported that video has its benefits such as letting family who live far away talk to the incarcerated people, but it has downsides if the system is not set up to provide eye-to-eye contact or if the service charges families (either by the minute or a flat fee) to talk with their loved ones.
Nevertheless, Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center shows that state and county jails are interested enough in the systems to continue to spend more on introducing video visitations, as means of helping prisons and families.
Correctional Facilities Open Doors to Video Visitation Technologies
Spending Forecast Center shows that at least 67 state and local governments have proposed or adopted budgets and capital improvement plans, which include video visitations in jails or prisons; among those, county governments comprise 87% of the total.
As jails open their locked bars to technology, IT and audio visual companies will have many opportunities to get inside as nearly 60% of solicitations and awards were relevant for contractors and vendors in the computer hardware, software and services, and telecommunications industries. Telecom and wireless businesses will find correctional facilities have taken different approaches to providing the video visitation services. Some have left the work completely in the hands of the contract holder. Others opted for a self-owned and operated system.
Construction firms with experience in building correctional facilities will also find business opportunities related to the installation of video visitation systems as these facilities may also require security system design and installation work and other necessary renovations to accommodate the new video systems.