Evaluating Video Visitation Technology for Prisons

In 2012, NIJ awarded the Vera Institute of Justice a multiyear grant to conduct the first-ever systemwide evaluation of video visitation technology for prisons. The study is using a mixed-methods design to better understand how to create policies about family-inmate contact, inform investment decisions and policies related to video visitation technology, and to understand video visitation’s role in reducing recidivism.

The Washington State Department of Corrections started rolling out its video visitation program in January 2013 with the goal of setting up operational systems at every state facility. At the same time, the Vera Institute began conducting its systemwide analysis of the video visitation program by initiating interviews with offenders, visitors and correctional staff.

The Vera Institute is combining administrative data, surveys, and information from focus groups and interviews to determine whether access to video visitation improves the nature and frequency of inmates’ contact with their families and others who support them. The study is also exploring whether these contacts improve inmates’ compliance with custodial rules and outcomes after their release from prison.

If the data analysis shows that the program has a positive impact, the Vera Institute also will assess the program’s effect on corrections culture, operations and budgets. This information will help determine whether and how the program could be replicated in other jurisdictions. Vera will also assess the cost effectiveness of the technology.

The final report is expected in 2015.

To learn more about the grant, see A New Role for Technology: The Impact of Video Visitation on Corrections Staff, Prisoners, and Their Families.

Date Created: June 27, 2014