Research shows that prison visitation is integral to the success of incarcerated people, reducing recidivism, facilitating reentry into the community, and promoting positive parent-child relationships. However, people are often incarcerated long distances from their home communities in areas that are difficult to reach by public transport, creating significant barriers to in-person visitation. Departments of corrections are exploring the use of computer-based video visits as a means to address some of the visitation needs of those in custody in a cost-effective way while continuing to encourage in-person visits. To learn more about this practice, the study team conducted the following research activities:
A survey of incarcerated people: The study team surveyed 211 people incarcerated in Washington State prisons about their use of video visits, their perceptions of the service, and their experiences of in-person visits more generally. This was a self-administered, pen-and-paper survey.
An impact evaluation of video visits: The study team analyzed individual-level administrative data from the Washington Department of Corrections (WADOC) and the private video visit vendor (JPay) to understand whether use of the service affected four outcomes: 1) the number of in-person visits people received, 2) the number of rule violations (of any severity) people committed in prison, 3) the number of general (ie. non-serious) rule violations they committed, and 4) the number of serious (as defined by WADOC) rule violations that were committed. The researchers used two analytic techniques: 1) a difference-in-difference test, using inverse probability of treatment weighting, and 2) Bayesian additive regression trees.
An analysis of in-person visit rates: The study team analyzed administrative data relating to all people who were incarcerated for the 12 month period ending November 2015 (n=11,524). The study team produced descriptive statistics and conducted negative binomial regressions to understand the rates of in-person visits and how these related to the characteristics of the incarcerated people.
Digard, Leon. A New Role for Technology? The Implementation and Impact of Video Visits in State Prisons, Washington, 2012-2015. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2020-02-27. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR36843.v1
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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2012-IJ-CX-0035)
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Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research