ON JULY 25 the District’s Department of Corrections (DOC) officially replaced in-person visits to the D.C. jail with video visitation. Billed as a means of “redesigning the visitation process” to double the number of daily visits and “better accommodate visitors who work during the week” with longer hours, the decision ultimately means that those with loved ones behind bars will be able to see them only on a screen.
Unsurprisingly, the DOC has had much to say about the alleged conveniences that this new policy is expected to bring. For instance, when visitors arrive at the Video Visitation Center — housed in the former D.C. General Hospital complex adjacent to the jail — they will no longer be subject to invasive security pat-downs or property searches as they were when they entered the jail. They also apparently won’t have to worry about interrupted visits, which would occasionally happen during lockdowns and other security concerns at the jail. In contrast with other prison systems with similar visitation policies, the cost in the District is free, and the only requirement for visitors is to schedule in advance a visitation time between Wednesday and Sunday, a time frame that is soon to be expanded to all seven days.