Incarcerated individuals in Boston prison use Securus’ video technology to connect with loved ones during COVID
Securus Technologies Provides Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Free Calls For Incarcerated Residents During the Pandemic
According to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department in Boston, Massachusetts, its agency is the 16th largest of over 3,000 sheriffs’ offices in our country. The average population of its incarcerated individuals is approximately 1,000. Like in so many correctional institutions around our nation, the pandemic took its toll on its agency. In March, when the government went into a state of emergency because of COVID, in-person visits stopped to protect the entire population at the prison, which experienced less than 20 cases of the virus at its outbreak. This figure represents staff and incarcerated residents according to Superintendent Yolanda Smith of the sheriff’s department. In order for incarcerated individuals to be able to keep their bonds strong with loved ones during this challenging time, the Suffolk County House of Correction offers Securus Video ConnectSM.
“The video visits help me cope with COVID, knowing that everyone is good and safe. The reassurance helps me relax,” stated Verenisa Valdez, an incarcerated resident in the Boston prison. “I’m sure my family and friends feel the same way when they see me.”
Securus Technologies® provides correctional agencies this visual communication tool, which gives friends, families, attorneys and public officials the opportunity to schedule and participate in video sessions with an incarcerated individual from anywhere with internet access using a smartphone, tablet or PC. This digital tool provides family and friends limitless opportunities to connect with an incarcerated loved one by sharing special moments. No other form of communication allows incarcerated individuals the ability to experience family life inside their homes. Securus Video ConnectSM gives incarcerated residents another opportunity to bond with their families to compliment traditional in-person visits, which will be available after the pandemic.
Smith says the video sessions made a positive impact on facility staff and incarcerated residents.
“When we began Securus Video Connect, the population was much happier because they could have face-to-face conversations with loved ones. Morale went up since it allowed our incarcerated community to see and know that their families are doing well during the pandemic,” she explained.
“It makes me feel great; it’s always a good thing to see my family. My daughter just had a birthday, I was able to sing happy birthday with her. That’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” exclaimed James Boyd, an incarcerated individual at the Suffolk County House of Correction .
Valdez adds that Securus Video ConnectSM helps her with her everyday well-being.
“Mental health is important. As long as you can find a way to adjust to your environment, you’ll be alright,” she explained. “Being able to keep in contact with my family helps with being able to keep your mind right.”
Smith adds the digital tool especially helps incarcerated residents who are being seen by the agency’s mental health clinicians since these patients were able to have the socialization that they were missing for months. She explains the ability to check on their home life gives them peace of mind which aids in their treatment.
Smith adds that she likes Securus Video Connect’s unique feature of being able to see multiple family members in the session. She explains the sheriff’s office works hard with its population on family reunification.
“Studies show that the incarcerated who have sound support systems are much more likely to be productive and less likely to recidivate. I do believe that being able to engage with loved ones, especially during the pandemic, really helps with family reunification and healing,” she stated.
Smith explains that the department spends a lot of time addressing the core issues that lead to criminality. Part of that is being able to understand what incarcerated individuals’ contributions have been in relation to burning bridges with family and friends and why they are incarcerated.
“I do believe that having a healthy conversation with their loved ones through Video Connect has been extremely helpful, so it is going to lower recidivism,” she added.
She adds that this video communication is something that the population did not have prior to this technology. Another positive result of the video sessions according to Smith is that the morale is a lot better among her staff.
“We are seeing a huge decline in contraband being introduced into our facility, so the morale of the staff has gone up as the result of having Video Connect,” Smith stated.
Additionally, the video sessions have improved the behavior of the incarcerated individuals. Smith explains that the incentive is if they are working on my program and staying out of trouble, the incarcerated residents know that they are going to be entitled to this time with their families, which she calls “wonderful”.
“I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize not being able to see my family. I look forward to that,” Boyd emphasized.
“When I speak to my mother and daughter. It gives me something to hold onto, makes me level-headed,” explained Valdez. “I can’t accept the consequences of losing this privilege. You think about your actions twice, since you might not be able to have a video session.”
Smith adds that the video sessions also incentivize compliance with the incarcerated individual education plans. Additionally, she states that Securus’ complimentary offer during COVID builds appreciation.
“Like many sheriff departments throughout the country, partnering with Securus to provide free phone calls to the inmates during COVID, I thought was so amazing so that they are able to hear from their loved ones that they’re okay,” Smith explained. “They are so appreciative for that, and we are super appreciative. Securus makes our technology easier."
She adds that she is pleased with Securus for getting the agency the equipment so quickly for Video Connect. On the horizon is the Securus’ tablet program.
“With the tablets, especially now, the remote learning process will continue and everybody will be able to keep up with their education plans. I think it’s going to be amazing,” stressed Smith.
The sheriff’s office provides individual service plans for the incarcerated residents. One of the benefits of the tablet program is the ability to customize content and offer services that meet a variety of needs. Substance abuse disorders and getting prepped for their high school equivalency certificate make up some of content that Smith feels will especially benefit the incarcerated residents.
“I think the tablet program is going to keep them up-to-date on technology, so it won’t be so foreign to them when they leave us. I think that it’s going to give them current resources and opportunities to counteract some of those things that got them here in the first place,” explained Smith. “When that happens the recidivism rate does lower.”
“I definitely feel that keeping in touch with your family helps you prepare for reentry. It affects my behavior and morale, when I see my girlfriend, mother and daughter, I just want to do what I have to do to get home and be a better person for everyone,” Boyd concluded.