Video Visitation

History and Advantages of Video Visitation

Allowing inmates to see friends, family, and other visitors has long been a humane concession to the otherwise rigid confines of life inside a correctional institution, but because they require close proximity between prisoners and the outside world, such visits have proven to be logistical challenges for facility staff. Video visitation, which was introduced in the mid-1990s, applied the new videoconferencing technology being used in business to the world of corrections.


Inmate movement invariably opens up the possibility for contraband and others problems, but video visitation eliminates the need to move inmates to a visiting area. Since the video visitation stations can be placed anywhere in a facility, the prisoner can access a station in his or her housing area and talk to visitors in a non-secure area like the lobby. The newest systems have improved the situation even more, with the introduction of internet visitation, which works much like a webcam. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can visit inmates who have access to these systems.

This accessibility gives several advantages, among them:

  • preventing children from being normalized to jail by minimizing their interaction with the criminal system
  • reducing the number of incidents that could happen during inmate transportation
  • reducing recidivism rates with the frequent connections made with family and friends 

Additionally, video visitation systems are a budget-friendly proposition by providing a revenue sharing option for cities, counties, and states when patrons pay for the ability to use the system. By doing this, the use of the system helps pay for itself, alleviating yet another operational cost. 

Sierra’s Role

Many companies have marketed offerings to the video visitation world, and as an integrator, Sierra has worked with most of them. We’ve even been called upon to engineer, build, and install video visitation software and hardware ourselves using our in-house engineering and electrical shop. For an example of our work with the vendor VizVoz, click here for photos of South Correctional Entity Jail, a Sierra project that featured an unprecedented level of integration in its security electronics, including integration with video visitation. Other video visitation vendors include: Renovo, Primonics/TeleCorrections, VUGate, and Securus.