One of the most exciting developments in the U.S. prison system over the last 10 years has been the development of video visitation system. These systems allow inmates to stay in nearly constant, face to face contact with family members, at prices that are often times less than what they would have previously paid for collect calls.
But that isn’t the only benefit of video visitation. One of the chief ways in which the new system helps inmates and their family members is by eliminating the costs associated with in-person visitation. In times past, family members would often have to drive hundreds of miles to the prison in order to attend an in-person visitation with their loved ones. This often entailed gigantic cost, including fuel lodging and food. These trips could oftentimes run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, presenting an unmanageable cost to families who are oftentimes themselves living below the poverty line.
But simply saving families money is not the only benefit of video visitation. The system has also generated a proven track record of reducing crime within prisons and also reducing recidivism in inmates who have access to it. The mechanisms for this reduction and adverse outcomes are largely due to the positive psychological benefits that inmates enjoy who are able to stay in consistent contact with their loved ones.
The ability of inmates to maintain socialization with law-abiding citizens has long been recognized as a crucial element in the rehabilitative process. Inmates who are not able to maintain meaningful relationships with those on the outside of prison oftentimes fall into a state of isolation, where their only interactions are with fellow criminals. This creates a natural habituation to criminal standards and norms. This is a major contributing factor to what penologists often refer to as institutionalization, the process by which an inmate becomes unable to function outside of the setting of a penal facility.