For decades, U.S. prisoners had only one way to visit their family members. That was for the family members to come to the prison in person for a face-to-face visit. Because prisoners are often housed many miles from their home towns, this often led to individuals serving out their entire sentences without ever seen their loved ones.
Starting around 2005, Securus Technologies, the nation’s leading provider of inmate communication services, began rolling out its innovative VoIP-based virtual visitation system. This system allowed prisoners a simulated visitation environment through a high-definition screen and high-fidelity sound link. Furthermore, it allowed the family members to see and hear their loved ones from the comfort of their own home. This obviated the need for innocent family members to undergo the indignities often required by visiting the prison in person.
This system has had a number of other major benefits. Whereas families in the past were forced to foot enormous bills, driving hundreds of miles to see their loved ones, today, they can talk to their loved ones for as little as $2.30 per 15-minute video call. This has allowed prisoners to stay in face-to-face contact with their families and children on a virtually unlimited basis.
It has also allowed for the drastic reduction in personal visits to carceral facilities. Because in-person visitations were so often a source of contraband being passed into the facility, the widespread adoption of video visitation has dramatically reduced the incidence of illicit materials being introduced into the prison population.
This reduction in in-person visitations has also reduced the need to move prisoners throughout different sectors of the facility. Such movements, likewise, have also been a source of serious potential problems. Gang members, who are usually confined in a certain area of the prison, often have to be transported through areas controlled by rival gangs. This has led to officers being injured and inmates being assaulted.