by Allyson Walker
Image by Peter
Macdiarmid / Getty Images
Roughly two-thirds of the nearly 700,000 people released
from U.S. prisons each year will be rearrested and many will be back behind
bars within just three years of their release.
A Growing Problem
sure isn’t helping to reduce the incarceration rate in the United States, which
has been the highest in the world for over a decade. In fact, while the U.S.
represents only about 5% of the world’s population, it houses 25% of the
world’s prisoners. With a cost of $24,000
per inmate per year and $5.1 billion in new prison construction, criminal
correction spending is the
second-fastest growing budgetary item after Medicaid.
Closing the “Revolving Door”
circumstances have caused policy makers and criminal justice practitioners to
realize that finding better ways to successfully reintegrate former prisoners
back into society is crucial if we want to reduce the rate of recidivism and
our growing prison populations. Because of the important implications for
public safety and the potential to save taxpayer dollars, effective prisoner
reentry programs have garnered the support of the public as well.
studies have shown that the factors that contribute the most to successful
reentry start long before an inmate is released. Vocational education and
training, drug treatment programs, and correctional practices that facilitate
communication with family and loved ones during incarceration all increase the
likelihood of successful reentry into the community.
Lowering Recidivism through Communication
consistently found that prisoners who maintain close contact with their family
members while incarcerated have better post-release outcomes and lower
And it only
makes sense. Imagine trying to re-integrate yourself into law-abiding society
after spending a few years in prison. You have lost your job, your place to
live, and probably many of your possessions and much of your money. Family and
friends are a returning prisoner’s most valuable support. In fact, nearly 92% of
incarcerated individuals surveyed by a 2011 study by the Vera
Institute of Justice said they expected to rely on their families
for some type of support once they were released. Family and friends are
capable of helping newly-released prisoners overcome significant reentry
obstacles, including the need for housing, child care, financial support, and
assistance with finding employment.
maintenance of these relationships during incarceration is crucial to an
inmate’s successful reentry into the community, and maintaining any kind of
relationship depends on maintaining regular communication.
Overcoming Obstacles to Frequent
So what are
the obstacles that prevent inmates from communicating more, and how can we
facilitate increased communication to get that much closer to shutting the
“revolving door” of America’s prison system?
the greatest challenges to on-site visitation is the distance that correctional
facilities are typically located from an inmate’s friends and family. While
phone calls also present a solution, one of the many benefits of video
visitation is the elimination of visitors’ travel costs to a
facility while still allowing them to have a visual visitation experience—all
from the comfort of their home. There is something about seeing the comfort and
familiarity of the home environment in such a sensory way which serves as a powerful
motivating factor for an inmate to get out—and stay out—of prison. It also
opens the door to visit with small children who would otherwise be unable to
visit an inmate in person.
doesn’t only benefit friends and family, though. To a facility, it means the
elimination of contraband, reduced prison operating costs associated with
on-site visitation, and a significant reduction in the likelihood that they
will see an inmate back behind bars again and again.
the main concerns of those working in corrections, however, is the risk that
comes with giving inmates increased access to the outside world. But today’s
improving technology helps to put many of these fears to rest.
innovations like audio mining technology allow for calls to be searched for
suspect keywords—even another inmate’s name—and can alert investigators
immediately to possible criminal activity as it is unfolding. Investigators can
be notified in real time when a certain inmate places a call or when a specific
number is called by an inmate. These capabilities eliminate the need for a
large number of investigators to sift through hours and hours of unimportant
call data looking for the content they need.
perhaps the most impressive accomplishment of modern technology in the field of
inmate communications is that it actually increases security—exactly the
opposite of the original concern. With state-of-the-art systems like Legacy’s,
investigators can even pinpoint the GPS location of a called party in real
time, giving law enforcement an unprecedented modern-day advantage in crime
prevention. Thanks to today’s powerful investigative tools, increased inmate
communication means access to a wealth of criminal evidence that can be used to
keep the true threats to public safety behind bars.
high call rates also discourage the use of communication services and limit
potential reductions in recidivism through better communication.
this was a central motivating factor behind the recent FCC 13-113 ruling, which
placed rate caps on inmates’ interstate long distance calls. According to FCC Commissioner
Mignon Cylburn, “Studies have shown that having meaningful contact
beyond prison walls can make a real difference in maintaining community ties,
promoting rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism. Making these calls more
affordable can facilitate all of these objectives and more.”
As a trusted
nationwide provider of inmate communications services, Legacy has always been
set apart by our affordable call rates and lack of hidden fees. We believe that
the excessive and deceptive fees that many inmate communication providers like
to charge, such as high replenishment fees, processing fees, mobile phone fees,
multi-phone fees, or monthly maintenance fees, coupled with exorbitant connect
fees and per-minute call rates, significantly reduce customer satisfaction,
which leads to a reduction in friends’ and families’ desire and likelihood to
communicate with their incarcerated loved one.
fees are also deceptive to the correctional facility because they are usually
non-commissionable, meaning they go straight into the pocket of the
communication provider without allowing the facility to gain any revenue off of
though at first lower call rates might sound like less revenue will be coming
into a correctional facility’s already-tight budget, the higher level of user
satisfaction and increased call volume that result will both contribute to an
actual increase in revenue. The concept is simple: If those communicating with
incarcerated individuals don’t feel like they are being “ripped off,” they will
want to talk more often.
strives to achieve the finite balance between revenue generation and meeting
the technology needs of clients while maintaining an industry-leading carrier-grade
network with favorable rates to connect inmates with friends and family as
often as possible. We are constantly working to provide a service that benefits
all involved—correctional facilities, inmates and their loved ones, and society
as a whole.
What do you think?
Will increased communication between
inmates and their friends and family help to strengthen those relationships and
facilitate a more successful reentry into the community? What else can we be
doing to help reduce the rate at which people return to jail?
Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below, or dropping us a line on Facebook or Google+.
About Legacy Inmate Communications
Legacy is a nationwide provider and has been a leader in the inmate communications industry for over 17 years, with headquarters in Cypress, California. We provide favorable rates for friends and family, unparalleled customer service and a host of technology options that complement all parties involved in reducing inmate recidivism. Legacy is unique in that it is a single-source provider, researching, developing, building integration and implementing every aspect of its Inmate Telephone Systems and Video Visitation Systems.
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