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November 7, 2012 (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)

Reasonable Video Visitation Policies in Prisons Benefit Children

As video conferencing becomes more widely available as a way for people who are incarcerated to see their families, the restrictive rules and high fees put in place by prison authorities and private organizations threaten to inhibit the technology’s benefits, especially for the 2.6 million children who have a parent behind bars, according to a report from The Sentencing Project, Video Visits for Children Whose Parents Are Incarcerated: In Whose Best Interest? Photo from MiikaS via Flickr.

Having a parent in prison can take a real toll on a child’s well-being and create symptoms of post-traumatic stress, according to the report. It can hurt their grades, make them withdraw from friends, become disruptive in class and feel less economically secure.

Face-to-face visits that allow parents and children to physically interact strengthen emotional connections, help children feel more secure and reduce recidivism in inmates, the report says. But about half of parents in prison or jail have never received a visit from a child.


Video conferencing can offer great benefits to children and their incarcerated parents, the report says, if it is used to complement and not substitute for in-person visits, if it doesn’t cost a lot, and if it allows children to visit easily and frequently from home or a nearby location.

But some facilities may still require families to travel to a special location equipped with the video technology, rather than being able to call from any computer at home. And high fees can make such virtual visits prohibitive as well.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Collateral Consequences