RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The cost to place a video call to a loved one in a Virginia prison will become more affordable starting in August.
Fran Bolin, the executive director of Assisting Families of Inmates (AFOI), said the cost of video visitation with the Virginia Department of Corrections will be reduced from 40 cents per minute to 20 cents on August 1.
“Families and children in our communities do better. They feel more connected. They feel less stress and anxiety about where their loved one is,” she said.
The non-profit partnered with ViaPath Technologies and the Virginia Department of Corrections back in 2010. They initially offered video calls from visitor centers throughout the state. In 2019, they began offering video visitations from home.
“We were outfitting all of Virginia’s prisons with infrastructure that did not exist,” Bolin said.
Angela Adinolfi said she spends nearly $1,000 a year to video-call her husband, who’s serving time in a Chesapeake prison.
“It’s a financial strain for a lot of families that are already struggling financially because one of their main support systems is incarcerated,” she said.
The pandemic highlighted the burden of expensive phone calls for people in prison.
However, Adinolfi still tried to squeeze in three video visits a week.
“It’s exciting news for sure that they’re lowering the price,” she said.
Santia Nance has been video-calling her loved one, Quadaire Patterson, since 2019. He’s incarcerated at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center.
“We spend a lot of time on the phone,” she said. “It’s tough to imagine, ‘OK, we spend however many dollars a day,’ but it’s worth it to me.”
She said the cheaper price will be a game changer.
“I know that there’s so many families, his included, who can’t always afford to do that, to stay in contact with him,” Nance said. “I think it’s awful that the system is already full of poor people — people who didn’t have access to the right legal assistance, people who didn’t have the right support or community growing up.”
Both Nance and Adinolfi said they may use video visitation more often with the lower rate.
“$20 for almost an hour of time with your loved one. For that to go down to $10, that’s a dramatic difference,” Nance said.
Bolin added that since the beginning of the program, their goal was to have a reduced rate for video visitation.
“We’re hoping it produces even more connections that may have not been possible. What we hope then is that families at home who are going without will know this will not be a barrier,” she said.
A visitation subsidy fund is available through the organization for families who can’t afford these connections, Bolin said. More information can be found here.
The reduced rate for video visitations starts on August 1.