Ensuring Safety Beyond COVID-19 While Boosting Inmates’ Mental Health

By Morteza SahebkarAugust 17, 2021

Ensuring Safety Beyond COVID-19 While Boosting Inmates’ Mental Health

With one in five inmates in the U.S. testing positive for COVID-19 and at least 2,100 passing away from the illness, correctional facilities must grapple with the serious challenge of limiting the virus’s spread.

Popular solutions have included limiting in-person visitations, shutting down lobbies and facility programs, and reducing staffing on-premises. And though social distancing measures like these are effective, they also have unintended consequences. Research generally shows that visitations from prisoners’ friends and family members significantly boost their mental health.

Facilities’ goals, then, are three-fold: reduce infection rates, address staffers’ safety concerns beyond COVID, and improve inmates’ mental health. Thankfully, using remote video visits to facilitate inmate communications can address these issues.

The Many Benefits of Remote Video Calls

Providing video visitation options for inmates is one of the best ways to address their mental health needs and protect staffers at correctional facilities. Here are just a few benefits of doing so:

1.) Reduces the risk of infection: Of course, remote prison visits reduce the spread of COVID-19 cases in prisons, as family members and friends don’t enter facilities in person. They also limit the virus’s spread in small lobbies or waiting areas where social distancing can be difficult, protecting staff from exposure.

2.) Costs less for prisoners and loved ones alike: Offering inmates video visitation means they can connect with friends and family members who aren’t within driving distance of (or don’t have the means to reach) the correctional facility. In comparison, remote video or voice calls are a fraction of a dollar per minute and can be taken in a loved one’s home. They’re also not much more expensive than a traditional phone call and are much more engaging.

3.) Boosts convenience and limits exposure to a harsh environment: Inmate communication through remote calling means quick chats or calls can take place easily. As long as the call happens within approved hours, all that’s needed is an available kiosk in a correctional facility. However, the number of kiosks and their availability can vary by facility. Similarly, communicating with incarcerated loved ones often includes visits with children. A remote prison visit means children and other family members can sit safely at home and still connect. Video communication also makes quick conversations (like simply saying goodnight) possible.

Of course, correctional facilities that provide inmates with video calls via a secure platform like HomeWAV’s also see a general reduction in cost and staff burden as well as increased security. For example, video visitation in prisons often means:

• Less time transporting inmates to the lobby

• A reduction in illegal substances being brought into jails

• Fewer staffers needed to schedule visits and monitor inmates

However, as enticing as these benefits are, they tell only part of the story of why video visitation is a game-changer. The rest of that story is told on the other side of the fence. It’s about the positive effect visitation (and video visitation in particular) can have on inmates, whether that’s keeping them connected with positive influences and motivations; helping them stay in contact with legal counsel, clergy, and health professionals; or helping them plan pathways for when their sentences are over.

Other Points to Consider

To be sure, there are still some potential challenges to consider when it comes to providing inmates with video phone calls. First, remote calls might not meet inmates’ or loved ones’ emotional needs in the same way a tangible connection does. A level of intimacy and affection is lost when an inmate cannot physically see a family member or friend. At the same time, technology might be troublesome: Individuals who aren’t tech-savvy could struggle, and remote prison visits rely on friends and family members owning devices with cameras.

Regardless, facilities find that offering video call technology to inmates and their loved ones is a breeze after the initial learning curve. And when it comes to the problems above, there are generally workarounds. In time, everyone’s experience can be seamless.

Why Video Technology Is Still Worth It for Your Facility

Not only are video calls an effective way to improve inmates’ mental health and connect them with those they care about, but they’re also a way to keep your staffers safe and your operations streamlined. As of January 2021, more than 340,000 inmates had received a positive COVID-19 test since the onset of the pandemic; now is the perfect time to give your inmates the option of remote video calls.

Besides this, remember that even though inmate video visits with friends and family and video court and arraignments are essential to responding to concerns spurred by COVID-19, not every video conferencing service is created equal. Many current platforms (such as Skype or Zoom) have lax security measures or are incapable of monitoring services, for instance. When you’re ready, just reach out to the experts at HomeWAV. We have the latest in inmate communications technology to keep you secure while addressing your most pressing challenges.

Interested in learning more about how HomeWAV can help you? Reach out to us today by clicking here!