As the Arizona Department of Corrections has implemented many programs aimed at reducing recidivism in an effort to decrease prison populations across the state, the Pima County Jail is following suit to try and keep inmates from re-offending and ending up back in custody.
The majority of the inmates at the Pima County Jail now have access to a technology that isn't new to the outside world, but is new to jail, in order to help keep them better connected with family members who can offer them support: video calling.
This way, inmates can both see and hear loved ones, making their visit more personal, according to Lieutenant Elsa Navarro.
"Any opportunity we can give them so they don't keep coming back into that same revolving door of the criminal justice system," she said. "Is anything that we're willing to do."
Navarro feels this new interaction will make their visits more meaningful, and hopefully encourage inmates to stay out of trouble once they are released.
"They all love it," Navarro said. "Just being able to see some of them, some have never seen their children that were born while they were incarcerated. And they are able to do that, that actually motivates them to want to get out of here."
The jail does closely monitor all of these video calls -- both screens, that of the inmate and his/her caller. If there is any nudity, criminal activity, or anything else of that sort, the jail will promptly shut off the connection.
While communication to the outside world is difficult from behind bars for good reason, Navarro believes having the opportunity to have positive communication with those who are a good support system for inmates is crucial in helping steer them away from criminal activity, therefore, reducing recidivism.
"That's your support system," she said. "So if you don't have the support system, it makes it really difficult to avoid that criminal environment that you're used to being in."
The service isn't free. For a 25 minute video call it costs $7.50. For a 55 minute video call, it costs $16.50. The money goes into the inmate welfare fund, designed to help supply inmates with various items.