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Virtual Visitation

This Washington Post opinion piece discusses a recent change in visitation policy at the D.C. Jail whereby video visitation has replaced in-person visits. The Postoffers:


Although it’s possible that video visitation might enable more visitors to interact with prisoners, the DOC has yet to articulate a substantive reason why this policy change was necessary. While there may be benefits to video visitation, there are also significant drawbacks. In-person visits provide the obvious benefit of strengthening family ties in times that can threaten those bonds, and they do much to preserve inmates’ morale. On a national level, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is clear on this point: Federal prisons are supposed to encourage “visiting by family, friends, and community groups to maintain the morale of the inmate and to develop closer relationships between the inmate and family members or others in the community.” There is no compelling reason why the D.C. jail’s municipal status should allow it to abide by any other set of rules.

Inasmuch as the D.C. Jail houses pre-trial detainees (i.e., those with pending criminal cases), another drawback is the potential that prison officials might record visits and turn videos over to prosecutors for use against an incarcerated defendant. Indeed, the DOC makes clear that it “reserves the right to monitor any and all visits taking place at the Video Visitation Center.”