Could online inmate visits reduce recidivism?

Featured eBooks

Digital First
What’s Next for Federal Customer Experience
Cloud Smarter

The idea could be a quick win for saving government money with IT.

Telecommunications vendor Polycom filed an interesting blog post Tuesday about the possibility for videoconferencing to reduce recidivism in prison inmates and save money for state and federal government.

The post cites reports from Minnesota and Florida that found regular visits by family members can reduce the likelihood of a released inmate returning to prison by 10 percent or more. That translated into reduced costs for those states' justice systems.

Visiting incarcerated family members can be difficult, though, because prisoners are often housed far away from their families and the security for in-person visits is costly for the state and burdensome for visitors.

The post suggests setting up video teleconferencing systems for prisoners to meet with family members more frequently and at less expense.

There’s no clear evidence video meetings would be as effective at reducing recidivism as in-person visits. Neither the Florida study nor the Minnesota study addressed the question. The idea would appear to be an easy win, though, in government’s quest to save money through smart technology.

Visits with friends and family members -- presumably the most beneficial -- could even be managed through a free service such as Skype, assuming prison officials could tack on reliable technology to monitor the calls, which is also commercially available.

[To be clear: This post is not meant to endorse any particular products, Polycom's or any other company's.] 

NEXT STORY: Game on for agencies and Pinterest