Lawmakers, the judiciary, and prison officials make it clear that American prisons are punitive and not rehabilitative in nature. Prison programs that promote education and training, health, and well-being have been increasingly cut in the past decade, even as a wealth of research continues to show that prisoners with access to basic programming fare better when released (as most prisoners are). States are now reporting a disturbing new trend: cutting prison visits. In today’s New York Times editorial, the NYT Board explains that:
Research shows that prisoners who get regular visits from their families are more likely to do well upon their release, are less likely to commit new crimes and may even be less violent while in prison — keeping people safer and reducing costs to taxpayers.
The op-ed goes on to say that, “in place of face-to-face visits, inmates and their families are being offered video conferences, which are no substitute for in-person contact.” The same pay-to-play companies that contract prisons for phone calls (a vicious industry scarred from recent battles with the FCC) now offers the video conferences that threaten in-person visitation. Video contact cannot supplant face-to-face conversation, and instead of serving to expand connections with our incarcerated clients, friends, and loved ones, this emerging technology is being used to discourage meaningful bonding. Support our friends in New York as they fight to keep what little visiting rights they’ve maintained (petition!) and continue to monitor the situation in your backyard. We may lock people away–far away–for long periods of time, but you must remember that most of the people that we’ve thrown in prison will return. Let us ensure that they have families and supportive communities to come home to so that they can be productive and loved as all humans deserve the chance to be.