Video visits help keep inmates, families connected

Published 6:00 am Friday, April 16, 2021

Inmates housed in Virginia’s state prisons and institutions stayed connected with friends and family through video visitation while the Virginia DOC, along with the Commonwealth of Virginia and the rest of the country, took measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus more than a year ago.

From March of 2020 through March of 2021, inmates conducted 144,699 video visits. By comparison, 3,257 video visits were made from March 2019 through March 2020. In-person visitation was suspended March 12, 2020.

“The decision to suspend in-person visitation was a difficult but necessary one given the serious nature of the COVID-19 threat to the inmates and staff,” Virginia DOC Director Harold Clarke said. “We strongly believe family support plays a vital role in an inmate’s success.”

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Video visitation is available in two forms. Family and friends can visit one of six visitor centers located throughout the state or conduct a video visit from home using the enhanced video visitation service. The enhanced service allows visitors to connect using at-home technology (desktop/laptop computer or Android smartphone/tablet). The current rate is 40 cents per minute for 20 or 50 minute visits ($8 or $20). Fees are paid by the visitors and go directly to support the cost of operating the program. None of the fees collected go to Virginia DOC.

The suspension of in-person visitation due to COVID-19 continues in Virginia DOC facilities. The department is following CDC recommendations as it considers a timeline for safely reintroducing in-person visitation.