Up Close, But Not Personal
Video visitation is becoming increasingly popular among law enforcement as it saves money and improves safety. The Wake County jail annex in North Carolina offers a typical setup: A row of 12 stalls are each equipped with a 19-inch Sony TV and mounted camera. A monitor and camera in the inmate’s dorm allow for instantaneous, two-way communication, but visitors complain about the lack of privacy and face-to-face intimacy.
Still, officials hope to expand the use of two-way video to include remote visitations, such as from a family’s living room TV. Magistrate hearings are already done remotely, and attorney visits and arraignments are expected to follow.
Video visitation is not new, but has been slowly spreading throughout the country over the past 10 years. Florida counties adopted the technology first and federal penitentiaries were fast-followers because of the safety it afforded guards.
In Seattle, people can go to the city jail to conduct visitations with inmates two hours’ away in Yakima, Wash.
The ACLU says video visitation is beneficial in some instances, but adoption should hinge on more than just short-term benefits. Depriving inmates of intimacy with their family can be seriously counterproductive psychologically, says ACLU National Prison Project coordinator Kara Gotsch.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Charlotte News Observer (08/03/04) P. B1; Zebrowski, John .