Background. Nationwide, an estimated 2.7 million children have an incarcerated parent, and some 5 million children will experience parental incarceration at some point during their childhood.

A coalition of prison reform organizations (see note A) said in a letter to the California Board of State and Community Corrections that in-person visits result in fewer disciplinary problems among prisoners and lower recidivism rates.

“Keeping prisoners and their families connected through in-person visits must remain the primary option. Video visitation should be a secondary/voluntary option only"- Resource, Information, Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD).

Without Virginia state legislation, there is serious concern that in-person visits will be abolished and replaced with video-only contact between inmates and their loved ones. According to the website for SECURUS, the largest video visitation service:

“Imagine no longer having to move inmates, service long lines of visitors, and manually manage visitation schedules. What types of efficiencies could be gained by eliminating these burdensome tasks?”

1) Virginia legislation is needed to require the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) to promulgate regulations for video visitation services that allow inmates to make video calls to individuals outside a correctional facility, but would require the DOC to ensure that correctional facilities that have video visitation services do not abolish or decrease the available in-person visits, and submit quarterly compliance reports.

2) Proposed Virginia legislation would regulate inmate calling services as necessary, to ensure that charges and practices are just and reasonable. The regulations must include: caps on rates charged by service providers, a prohibition against charging flat rates, a prohibition against a provider requiring a correctional facility to restrict in-person visitation as a condition to providing a calling or video visitation service, a prohibition against the provider offering bundled services that include non-communications services, and video quality standards.

3) Although video visitation is an important option for people with physical illnesses, disabilities, and limited time and finances, in-person prison visits help incarcerated people to maintain vital relationships with their family members and loved ones on the outside. Studies show that inmates who get personal visits with family are less likely to return.

NOTES: The coalition is comprised of the ACLU; the Prison Law Office; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice  (Novemer 29,2017)