Jordanna Wong-Omshehe| Contributor
It is inhumane to deny people the ability to see their loved ones, yet the Riverside Sheriff’s Department is trying to do just that with the opening of Benoit Detention Center.
Despite continual grassroots efforts, the Sheriff’s Department has refused to build space for in-person family visitation at Benoit, opting instead to build a room for families to video chat with their incarcerated loved ones.
Multiple studies have shown that in-person visitation is crucial to the health and well-being of incarcerated people and is vital to their rehabilitation. When visits increased, incarcerated people that experienced depression saw a reduction in their symptoms and those that returned to their community saw lower rates of recidivism.
Additionally, imagine growing up only interacting with your mom through a screen. You can’t clearly see her and the connection ends before you can say “I love you.” Video calls could, in theory, be a positive, if provided in tandem with in-person visitation, as they would increase communication overall. However, in practice, the service is glitchy, pixelated, and can cut out at random times. Due to the positioning of the cameras, families cannot even make eye contact with their loved ones.
Video visitation is often a bonus service included with phone, email, and commissary. The Prison Policy Initiative found that Securus, one of the companies providing these services, requires facilities to remove in-person visitation in their contracts. Perhaps the reason elected officials in Riverside are committing this harmful act is because they would rather please CEO’s of big corporations than treat members of their community humanely.
Furthermore, the Sheriff’s Department has cited “cost” as the reason behind eliminating the option of in-person visitation at Benoit. Yet, if there was $400 million dollars available to construct this entirely new jail, surely the Sheriff’s Department can repurpose an already-constructed room inside the facility to accommodate in-person visitation — which is a human right.
I am demanding the Riverside Sheriff’s Department provide in-person visitation at Benoit Detention Center. It is nothing short of cruel to keep people from being with their loved ones, to only allow a child to see their parent through a pixelated screen.
For more information please contact Jordanna Wong-Omshehe, firstname.lastname@example.org.