Prisons have been significantly affected by budget cuts in the wake of the economic recession, leading to prison closures and limited resources for corrections departments to address the needs of incarcerated people. To increase cost-effectiveness, departments are exploring the use of technology to help incarcerated people maintain supportive family relationships.

Vera partnered with the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) to analyze the use of video visitation in their prisons. Combining administrative data, surveys, focus groups, and interviews, Vera will:

  • Study how the Washington State DOC implemented its video visitation program, what the main challenges were, and how these challenges were addressed;
  • Assess what difference, if any, video visitation has on contact between incarcerated people and their families;
  • Evaluate how access to video visitation affects in-prison behavior compared to people without access to video visitation;
  • Describe users’ experiences of the system;
  • Do a cost analysis of implementing video visitation; and
  • Identify lessons learned from video visitation in Washington that may be useful to other state prison systems.

This is the first comprehensive study of the impact of video visitation on incarcerated people, corrections culture, and corrections budgets. The study will provide valuable empirical evidence to inform policy debates about family contact, and investments and policies related to video visitation.

This project is supported by Award No. 2012-IJ-CX-0035, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.