Professor of Criminal Justice, Stockton University
- The type of visits people make to jails is associated with the degree to which they find the visit stressful and the amount of time and money they need to visit.
- People whose visits to jails involved communicating through glass windows using telephones rated their visits as more stressful and time-consuming than people who took part in video visits from the jail lobby or a remote location.
- People preferred visits that involved contact with the inmate but said remote video visits were the most convenient. Remote visits allowed many who lacked the time or money to visit the jail to communicate with their families.
- Lobby video visits were considered the least convenient. Families said it was frustrating to travel to the jail and not see their inmate in person, and they cited problems with video systems.
In the article, “Visitation Modality Preferences for Adults Visiting Jails,” Tartaro and Levy sought to determine how new technology affects visitors’ views of the time they spend with inmates. The authors surveyed 460 visitors to three county jails who communicated through a glass window by telephone, via video from the jail’s lobby, or via remote video from an off-site location. While there are potential benefits to inmates receiving visitors, including support and the possibility of reducing recidivism, the visitation process can be difficult for both inmates and visitors. The authors conclude that the ideal way to visit inmates is through a contact visit, because of its personal nature, but many jails don’t offer that type of access because of the challenges they raise. Remote video visitation may be a good option because it is relatively cheap and easy to facilitate, though not all visitors have the knowledge or technology to make them happen. The authors suggest that it is important for jails and prisons to continue to offer alternatives to remote video visits so visits are available to all families, not just those with the means and technological know-how to access them. The interviews were conducted only in English; the authors note that their results might have reflected a different picture of the obstacles visitors faced if the interviewers had spoken to Spanish-speaking family members.