By Clair Beazer
March 25, 2008
In reference to the K.M.N. article outlining the ongoing expansion of video visitation in Colorado jails and the plans, already in motion, to expand this form of visitation further within the Colorado Department of Corrections (C.D.O.C.)
I would like to say, as a person who has experienced both and is currently in the C.D.O.C., that is should first be noted that prisoners in jails as a general rule have less rights and privileges because jail stays are usually of a shorter duration averaging only days, weeks or months.
A whole lot of, lets say, waiting occurs in a corrections setting, not all of it done by Inmates. So while it is all well and good to hear corrections staff promoting efficiencies in these tough economic times, you have to ask if they will also promote staff reductions that reflect these new found efficiencies. For, after all, efficiencies that reduce demand for manpower yet still result in zero savings are hardly a selling point.
As it is C.D.O.C. already has and implements a visiting policy that begins by stating that it promotes and supports visitation, and then follows that statement with a lengthy list of rules that in practice actually does many things to discourage visitation, i.e., visitors are subject to strip search, drug sniffing dogs systematically investigate visitor parking during visits, etc. etc.
In addition visits are a twofold experience; they are also very meaningful to visitors, especially children who bond through sight, smell and touch. It should be remembered and is of paramount importance that all visitors are citizens and members of our community. They voluntarily subject themselves to such scrutiny out of love and that hey should be punished for the wrong and mistakes of the inmates they choose to support.
There are also many questions, such as what good comes of these changes. Will they make our beautiful state safer? The very reason, I might add, for the necessary evil that is corrections. Will they reduce recidivism? In keeping with Governor Ritter’s stated desire to address the need for a reduction in recidivism rates, can work as another tool with potential to do just that?
It has been pointed out that a change that makes video visitation an addition to the current options may help increase visitation for out-of-state inmates who because of exponentially greater time, distance and financial challenges experience less frequent visitation and would welcome a change that could enhance sometimes tenuous familial and community ties.
Keep in mind that vitiation, at times, is a hard and difficult experience for all concerned. If video visits are an addition they will be a help to all and a god-send to many. But if video visits are a replacement of and for the current visitation their implementation would be a painful unwelcome change that would be impersonal and dehumanizing. Their effect could result in demoralization and that his change could adversely affect recidivism.
Studies have repeatedly proven and commons sense tells us that familial and community ties are among the most powerful and effective anti-recidivism measures in play, and that inmates who care about and have ties to the community are less like to re-offend. So please use common sense and promote and support policies and practices that grow stronger family ties, result in reduced recidivism rates and that enhance and strengthen our community. Make video visitation an addition that helps us and not a change that hurts our families and children.