Inmates and their loved ones have been staying connected during COVID-19 restrictions, with the number of video and tablet visits today hitting above the 100,000 mark.
Corrective Services NSW staff across the state worked hard to enable the family video visits, and in some cases connected inmates to parents overseas, reunited them with pets and even permitted one inmate to attend his daughter’s wedding via AVL.
Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin praised correctional officers and administration staff for utilising the technology.
“The past six months have been a challenging time and our staff have adapted and embraced innovation to ensure inmates can maintain the important and valuable links with their loved ones,” Mr Severin said.
“I want to thank NSW corrections staff for their hard work, enthusiasm and passion. We know that family connections are vital for an offender’s rehabilitation and our staff are committed to reducing reoffending and keeping the community safe.”
Prior to COVID-19 visitor restrictions being introduced in March, there were about 4,500 face-to-face visits each week across the state’s 35 correctional centres. The number of family video visits each week currently exceeds this.
A survey of 5,000 inmate family and friends in July found that 90 per cent were satisfied with the family video visit experience and 85 per cent want family video visits to continue once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
The survey also found that after seeing their loved one, the best part of a video visit was being able to show the inmate their home environment or pets. The third most important aspect was being able to avoid travelling to a correctional centre.
One respondent said: “It was over six years since I saw my brother because of distance and not wanting to take my children to a correctional facility. I know his mental health has improved a lot from it, and being able to show him our home made it much more personal.”
In some centres the AVL studios are now operating up to 13 hours a day to cater to the growing number of courts and professional matters and the huge take-up of family visits.
CSNSW will reinstate face-to-face visits when it is safe to do so and is also exploring the option of continuing to use the AVL technology for family video visits.