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Frequent Communication with Friends and Family Proven to Lower the Rate of Recidivism

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Written 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

This 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”

These 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.


But 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

Studies have consistently found that prisoners who maintain close contact with their family members while incarcerated have better post-release outcomes and lower recidivism rates.


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.


The 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 Communication

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?


Travel Costs

One of 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.


Video visitation 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.


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Security Concerns

One of 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.


Modern 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.


But 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

Unreasonably high call rates also discourage the use of communication services and limit potential reductions in recidivism through better communication.


In fact, 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.


These 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 them.


Even 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.


Legacy 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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