City Desk

Video Visits Not So Popular With D.C. Jail Visitors

When Mayor Vince Gray cut the ribbon on the D.C. Jail's new Video Visitation Center last week, he said the new building would be more convenient for visitors. But when the center actually opened on Wednesday, visitors weren't convinced.

René Saunders, 41, couldn't even "visit" her fiance because his cellblock mates were protesting the new policy by refusing visits. “They don’t want it either because this is ridiculous," she said.

The center, located in a building a block away from the jail, allows visitors to talk to inmates over a videoconferencing system. Now that it's open, the Department of Corrections has eliminated the traditional physical visits, where inmates and their visitors are separated only by a Plexiglas wall. The Washington Post editorial board has criticized the new policy, saying that keeping physical visits as an option would help inmates prepare to re-enter society.

Ciara Jackson, 20, arrived at the center to visit her boyfriend. She had brought her five-year-old daughter to the center, but was disappointed that they wouldn't be able to see him in person.

“It’s not fair to her,” says Jackson. “We see them through this thick old glass and talk to them over this nasty phone. Now y’all gonna make us talk to them over a screen, like come on now? That’s not fair.”

Photo by Sudip Bhattacharya

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  • Typical DC BS

    AWWWW. The poor convicts are unhappy cause they don't get their way. WAAAAH. What a crime against humanity. Guess this also stops the smuggling of contraband from their ladies and friends too. Probably a bigger reason for the prisoners whining.

    Gee, maybe they'll finally realize it sucks to be in prison.

  • East Coast

    Soooooo what? Why is this news??????

  • Ward-8

    Yup. this sure cut down on the visiting criminals from smuggling drugs and othe items into the visiting hall, knowing if the Officers fail to discover it during their search, it becomes a part of the convicts continous criminal enterprise, yes folks when the majority of these thugs go to jail, they don't all of a sudden renounce their behavior which cause them to be there in the first place. As the old adage goes, there is only two places that don't send out invitation, the jail and the cemetary, the jail you must violate the laws and of course the cemetary we want live forever.

  • David

    yes typical dc bs, only NOW will people in prison finally realize it sucks to be in prison. glad you are on the case because they were sure living the high life before.

  • James Ward 2

    Sustaining relationships with family members while one serves time in jail is beneficial to the individual and to society because these connections reduce the likely of at-risk behavior that can lead to recidivism. And helping children of non-custodial fathers, who are spending time in jail, maintain contact increases the likelihood that the child and parent foster some sort of bond. These bonds can benefit the child, minimizing a sense of abandonment, and create a sense of responsibility for the offender upon release. In general, face-to-face contact represents an opportunity to enhance the rehabilitative process.

    The Gray Administration is short-sighted . . . surprise, surprise.

  • Defending Matrimony

    "....couldn't even 'visit' her fiance."

    Don't you mean "couldn't even visit her 'fiance'."

    Got a wedding date planned for when the boyfriend is no longer indoors, or is "fiance" just her way of saying "friend with benefits?"

  • Typical DC BS

    @David: Read the article. Maybe then your low comprehension skills will allow you to understand my comment.

  • Key Cee

    FYI, not all people in jail are there rightfully. And with 3 inch plexiglass and no physical contact at all between visitors and inmates, it wasnt the visitors smuggling anything in. They need to check the correctional officers, as that's how a lot gets in. Cell phones, drugs, etc. And that's not going to stop with these video visits. Some of you people are so biased. Some people in jail do have wives, children, fiances. Some aren't in for serious crimes. Any crime doesnt mean you don't have a right to see your family and interact on a human level. I can tell the commenters are white. If your son was in jail for selling cocaine or weed on campus (like so many of them do at American U or Catholic U or Univ. Of MD), would you not think he deserved visits??? Stop being so prejudiced and be humane. Taking human visits away eliminates that last shred of humanity. People want to see their children, their mother's, see their kids walk to the visiting phone, etc.