Connecting the Disconnected: Communication Technologies for the Incarcerated

42 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2018 Last revised: 30 Oct 2018

See all articles by Neil L. Sobol

Neil L. Sobol

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: August 24, 2018


Incarceration is a family problem—more than 2.7 million children in the United States have a parent in jail or prison. It adversely impacts family relationships, financial stability, and the mental health and well-being of family members. Empirical research shows that communications between inmates and their families improve family stability and successful reintegration while also reducing the inmate’s incidence of behavioral issues and recidivism rates. However, systemic barriers significantly impact the ability of inmates and their families to communicate. Both traditional and newly developed technological communication tools have inherent advantages and disadvantages. In addition, private contracting of communication services too often leads to abusive practices and conflicts of interest for facilities.

Although technology plays a critical and expanding role in communications, a comprehensive evaluation of the methods and policies surrounding inmate communications is needed. Efforts to address incarceration rates, education, and research gaps, along with an understanding of the potential and limitations of communication technologies, are critical to the development of policy initiatives. These tools should be employed with a regulated approach to choosing and contracting for communication services to effectively reduce barriers and improve outcomes.

Keywords: incarceration,visitation,video visitation,imprisonment, jail,prison,recidivism,communication technologies,criminal justice debt,fees,criminal law,social justice,reintegration,telephone fees,electronic messaging,prisoner reentry,in-person visitation,prison mail,privatization,criminal rehabilitation,

JEL Classification: D63,I30,I31,I39,J15,J18,K14,K42

Suggested Citation

Sobol, Neil, Connecting the Disconnected: Communication Technologies for the Incarcerated (August 24, 2018). Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 3, 2018; Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-51. Available at SSRN:

Neil Sobol (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States
8172124055 (Phone)

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