Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Nevada Private Prison Joins Trend of Replacing Visits with Closed-Circuit Video

with 6 comments

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has this interview with the warden of a brand-new private prison. The interview itself is worth reading as a quick look at a warden’s point of view, but I wanted to highlight this line from the introductory material:

Nevada Southern, built by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America for $83.5 million, will look different than traditional prisons in more than just ownership. Prisoners can meet with outsiders, except lawyers, only through closed-circuit video feeds. In-person contact, in a large room or separated by heavy glass, has passed into history.

Between their out-of-the-way locations, security measures, advance paperwork requirements, limited visiting hours, exorbitant phone call fees, etc., prisons can make it very hard for inmates to coordinate and receive visits from family and friends. Yet studies have consistently suggested that prisoners who receive visits and maintain family ties fare better in terms of recidivism and reentry after they return to their community (as 90% of prisoners eventually do). In turn, visits are also important for prisoners’ children; studies suggest “those who visit their parents more often and under better visiting conditions exhibit fewer adjustment problems” (Petersilia, When Prisoners Come Home, p. 44). Although I do not know if it’s been empirically proven, I would be surprised if a closed-circuit video visit has the same meaning to either prisoners or their visitors as a face-to-face conversation. I would assume that if pressed about this policy, CCA would say it’s about keeping out contraband and/or cutting costs. But it sounds to me like a short-sighted, counterproductive measure.

Written by sara

September 27, 2010 at 7:38 am

6 Responses

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  1. Agree, but wouldn’t it be great if an inmate’s family could “visit” this way without (spending money and time they doin’t have) traveling to the prison? There could be visitation centers around the state where families could videoconference with an inmate anywhere in the state.


    September 27, 2010 at 7:44 am

  2. It sounds to me too much like the virtual world replacing the real world…


    September 27, 2010 at 7:53 am

  3. How does it work? Do visitors still travel to the prison? Or does the visitor stay home, or go to a remote site close to home, and webcam it? Somehow I doubt it’s the latter. But I ask because that could be an important innovation, if it could happen.

    Relatively few prisoners, very few, receive visits (remoteness of prisons, cost, etc.). So if visitors must still travel to the prison, then visits-by-TV will make no difference. But if access is via remote connection, it could increase contact.

    As to the “virtual world replacing the real world . . .” — well, yes. Nothing’s going to change that, absent a catastrophic nationwide electro-magnetic pulse that disables all electronics. I mean, we are communicating on this here bloggie virtually, yes?

    On a maybe related point: the vast majority of prisoners who have healthcare encounters via closed circuit television (tele-psychiatry, or to see a medical doctor) not only voice no complaints but speak very highly of the experience. We have ALL been conditioned, and accept, and find it very comfortable, to be in front of a TV or monitor screen.


    September 27, 2010 at 8:41 am

    • The way I read the article, it sounded like visitors would still have to go to the prison. But I could be wrong.


      September 27, 2010 at 9:07 am

  4. I find it less problematic since the article says this particular prison will basically operate as a federal detention center, holding people for “on average” one to three months. I don’t know how long it takes to approve normal visitors, but this might be easier if most of the prisoners are truly short-term… I would find it more troubling if prisoners serving very long sentences were only allowed virtual visits.


    September 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm

  5. This post points towards a potential point of overlapping consensus.

    As above, there are tons of mothers and fathers out there who’ve had their parental rights either taken away or compromised due to crime/punishment. This leads to a high rate of recidivism, and produces a bunch of maladjusted kids.

    The counter intuitive thing is that there are also lots of estranged middle class white males who have never been incarcerated. It seems to me that they could be convinced to empathize with incarcerated individuals who’ve lost their parental rights.

    I think getting this demographic to see felons as humans would be valuable. It’s the middle class white voter who tends to throw up his hands in anger, yell at the state for giving the other parent child support, and become more solidly revanchist.


    September 27, 2010 at 11:53 pm

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