To help answer questions about this emerging service, here is a great roundtable-style debate in the form of five essays that discuss its pros and cons. Each essay is only a few paragraphs long, and the authors sum up the arguments pretty well.
On the one hand, video visitation promises to improve outcomes inside and outside of prison walls. It helps keep families better connected by making visiting hours more flexible, less supervised, and less expensive for jails and prisons. And it spares children from exposure to those environments, where they may be too intimidated by their surroundings to relax and bond with their parent.
On the other hand, families can suffer when facilities use video to replace, rather than supplement, in-person visits. One reason is that video can never substitute for hugs or playtime, and in this regard, there are some interesting lessons we can draw from the experiences of military families who use video to see but not touch. Plus, the providers of video visitation may exploit families by setting exorbitant rates for the service or by forcing facilities to end in-person visits altogether as a condition of their contract. And the jails and prisons may be willing to go along because of the cost savings or kickbacks (or both) that they enjoy.