San Juan County said the change is a positive step that will reduce the travel burden for families when visiting detainees. “It comes down to technology and convenience for family members,” county spokesman Devin Neeley said.
The change will also increase security by decreasing the number of people entering and leaving the detention center each day, Neeley said. He said this would allow the detention center to reassign officers to other parts of the facility. It will also save taxpayer money, according to Neeley.
But the Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative says that not allowing in-person visits can have negative effects on inmates as well as prison and prison security.
“The feeling of being physically close to your loved one cannot be replaced by sophisticated technology,” Wanda Bertram, communications strategist for the Prison Policy Initiative, said in an email to the Daily Times. “But even if it did, this technology is far from fancy. It’s not Skype; it’s shoddy technology that’s slippery, grainy, doesn’t let you look the other person in the eye, and can break and fall for weeks.
Bertram said family visits are often the only source of hope for people in prison. “When you take that off, it can seriously hurt people psychologically, and it puts everyone in jail at risk,” Bertram said.
Hundreds of prisons and prisons across the United States have abandoned in-person visits in favor of video visits, the Prison Policy Initiative has said.
Prison Policy Initiative has partnered with a group called Face to Face Knox to study the impacts of ending in-person visits to the Knox County Jail in Knoxville, Tennessee. The County of Knox ended in-person visits in 2014. The Face to Face Knox report was released in January 2018.
The Face to Face Knox study found that the end of in-person visits did not result in a substantial drop in the amount of contraband entering the prison, and that the end of in-person visits made the prison more dangerous by increasing the number of assaults on other detainees. or staff.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, people using the video tour software complained that calls failed halfway through the tour, and sometimes they couldn’t even connect it.
Neeley said every inmate at the San Juan County Detention Center will receive a free 15-minute video tour each week. Visits or extra time will be charged 25 cents per minute.
Neeley said the county was aware that phone or online tours might not work for everyone. He said the court can notify the detention center and, if necessary, schedule visits.
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