May 08, 2016

"Travis County ended all in-person visitations in May 2013, leaving video visitation as the exclusive method for people on the outside to communicate with the incarcerated."

Tech.mic: But Travis County is only on the leading edge of a new technological trend that threatens to abolish in-person visitation across the country. By Jack Smith IV

'Over 600 prisons in 46 states have some sort of video visitation system, and every year, more of those facilities do away with in-person visitation.

'Anticipating the arrival of friends and family, making eye contact, holding a child's hand — these are the experiences and memories that give someone the resilience they need to make it in prison. A visit can alleviate the suffering that comes cold confinement and the brutality of unpredictable violence that erupts between inmates. Once people leave prison and return to society, their ability to thrive depends on the support network they left behind when they were incarcerated. In-person visits keep those relationships alive in a way that speaking through a flickering monitor does not.

'Video visitation requires fewer full-time prison staff members, so if the private contractors are willing to run the visitation system themselves, it's a pretty sweet deal for counties. Especially when those contractors are paying their way in.

'County officials across the country claim video visitation is good for security. When [Jorge] Renaud got ahold of prison records, they showed that incidences of inmate-on-inmate violence, disciplinary infractions and possession of contraband all rose after Travis County did away with in-person visitation.'

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