Could Video Chatting Lead to Drug-Free Prisons?
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People visiting their loved ones in prison is a major source for drugs getting inside. But now video chatting services, like Skype, have become an increasingly popular way for prisoners to communicate with the outside world. Some correctional officers believe prisons could ultimately eliminate the need for person-to-person visitor interactions—and curb the flow of drugs inside—by implementing "virtual visitation" on a wider scale. "Virtual visitation is a new concept that is spreading across the country," a correctional officer tells The Fix. "Inmates and their families would register for the web-based video visitation program and pay per minute like they do on the telephone and email services. It could eventually replace in person visitation." Prisoners aren't so keen on the idea, as they feel it is taking away one more of the "little freedoms" that they enjoy in the rigid prison environment. "It sounds lame to me," one prisoner tells The Fix. "I want to hold my wife's hand and have my daughter sit on my lap when I see them. Being in prison I need the human interaction and touch of my loved ones to strengthen my family ties." He says communicating through a computer is comparable to "talking on the phone or being behind the glass" and should not be used in lower or middle-security prisons. Still, the prisoner does agree that virtual visitation could prevent drugs from getting smuggled in. "Less drugs would definitely be coming in," he says, "But staff just needs to do their job and stop being lazy."