Since its inception in the mid-2000s, video visitation has become the dominant mode of inmate communications throughout U.S. prisons. The leader in this novel form of prison communications is global corrections leader Securus Technologies. Driven by in-house research and a flurry of patents, Securus’ brand of video visitation has allowed inmates to stay connected to their loved ones in ways not previously feasible. But perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of this have been the families of inmates themselves.
The truth is, the old in-person visitation system was riddled with inadequacies and exorbitant costs that many times caused inmates to effectively serve out their entire sentences without ever seeing their family. Add to that the historic problems with overcharging for prison phone calls and many prisoners became totally isolated from their outside lives. A period of incarceration was almost as if the inmate had disappeared completely. This was not psychologically healthy for the inmates nor was it healthy for the operation of the institutions where such inmates were housed.
A far better service at a tiny fraction of the cost
Prior to 2005 or so, families that wanted to visit their incarcerated loved ones had but one option: drive to the prison and visit them in person. This sounded fine in theory. But in practice, it often turned out to be far more than many families could reasonably bear.
The United States is a vaster land than many appreciate. Especially for those who have spent the majority of their lives sequestered within the inner city, the sheer expanse of even intrastate distance often befuddles the mind. Take for example a family whose son is convicted of a felony in San Diego. He is sent to San Quentin, on the shores of the San Francisco bay. The family, already devastated by the sentence, comes to find out that to visit their son they will have to drive seven and a half hours one way. For many families this amounts to the imposition of an additional sentence – they will not be able to afford to see their loved ones until they are released from custody.
While trekking even half the distance of one state may cost a large family in excess of $500, a video visitation often will cost less than five. Such enormous savings are allowing families to stay connected that would have been otherwise unable. Video visitation allows an inmate to hold onto their outside life and the sense of purpose that comes with it.