More Jails Replace In-Person Visits With Awful Video Chat Products

Direct link

「An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:

After April 15, inmates at the Adult Detention Center in Lowndes County, Mississippi will no longer be allowed(Archive) to visit with family members face to face. Newton County, Missouri, implemented an in-person visitor ban last month (Archive). The Allen County Jail in Indiana phased out in-person visits earlier this year. All three changes are part of a nationwide trend toward "video visitation" services. Instead of seeing their loved ones face to face, inmates are increasingly limited to talking to them through video terminals. Most jails give family members a choice between using video terminals at the jail -- which are free -- or paying fees to make calls from home using a PC or mobile device.」

These jails are basically saying fuck you to humanly contact with your family and friends. Its either you visit using a god damn video terminal or having to pay ridiculous amount of money to make audio calls. Imagine going to the jail to talk to your loved ones and then suddenly find out that you can't speak to them directly but have to use a video terminal instead.

「Even some advocates of the change admit that it has downsides for inmates and their families. Ryan Rickert, jail administrator at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center, acknowledged to The Commercial Dispatch that inmates were disappointed they wouldn't get to see family members anymore. Advocates of this approach point to an upside for families: they can now make video calls to loved ones from home instead of having to physically travel to the jail. These services are ludicrously expensive. Video calls cost 40 cents per minute in Newton County, 50 cents per minute in Lowndes County, and $10 per call in Allen County. Outside of prison, of course, video calls on Skype or FaceTime are free.

These "visitation" services are often "grainy and jerky, periodically freezing up altogether," reports Ars. As for why so many jails are adopting them, it has a lot to do with money. "In-person visits are labor intensive. Prison guards need to escort inmates to and from visitation rooms, supervise the visits, and in some cases pat down visitors for contraband. In contrast, video terminals can be installed inside each cell block, minimizing the need to move inmates around the jail." The video-visitation systems also directly generate revenue for jails.」

Profitting off of prisoned inmates - How low can they go. If these two services were add-on features that would have been fine but getting rid of the ability to meet in person is dehumanizing. Also the fact that the services are low quality for the amount you have to pay to use it. "In-person visits are labor intensive" So what? Get off your lazy ass and do your fucking job. It has been like this for centuries but now this has to change due to 'convenience' for the prison guards.

Some supplementary insightful comments courtesy of Slashdot:

Prison Industrial Complex

"The video-visitation systems also directly generate revenue for jails."

「And that, right there, summarizes one of the greatest problems with our penal system. The pursuit of profit. That is not their role. Well, I mean, we've allowed that to become a part of their role, but it's utterly reprehensible.

I hate that about this country.」

De-humanize convicts even more

「Sure, sure. Cut prisoners off from normal, well-adjusted people as much as possible. Ensure they are only exposed to other prisoners, and guards. Great way to dehumanize them even more, drive them ever farther away from what is mentally and emotionally considered 'normal'. Then be sure to never, ever do anything positive to rehabilitate them, and you ensure that when they're done serving their current sentence, they'll be back in prison soonest. Rinse, repeat. Guaranteed slave labor force. I'd sooner shoot all convicts in the head straightaway rather than subject them to an environment that is guaranteed to make them into worse monsters, or make them into monsters if they weren't already.

Pre-emptive strike: Racist assholes who say "blacks are all criminals and deserve what they get", and small-minded, short-sighted myopians who will say "criminals don't deserve to be treated like human beings" can go fuck themselves. Likewise greedy corporate assholes who profit off privately-owned prisons, or who think we should have such a thing as 'for profit' prisons. Also likewise so-called 'conservatives' who will insult me for being a 'bleeding heart liberal' or whatever the hell you people say this week. If you're not going to even TRY to rehabilitate criminals into decent citizens and human beings then you may as well just kill everyone immediately who commits any felony and be done with it, rather than demonstrate that you're as much a violent animal as THEY are. Plain and simple.

For FUCK'S SAKE, it's the 21st century and we still do shit like this? Really, humans? Seriously!?」

Status quo updated to newer technology

「Criminal lawyer here. This isn't surprising, it's mission creep. The vast majority of county jails already use sponsored VOIP calling systems. And they too are AWFUL. A 10 - 15 minute phone call will cost $20. The audio quality sucks. It sounds far away, it has popping sounds. It randomly disconnects.

And it was only a matter of time before the vultures came up with ways to further infiltrate the jails.

There is no technical reason why it should cost as much as it does. The reason is because the vendors give revenue kickbacks to the counties. Additionally they give subsidies to the jails in the form of free equipment. What they don't do is upgrade the ISP. Jails are still technologically low tech places and many (especially in rural areas) have bare minimum internet connections that are quickly saturated by even a few video sessions.

This is exploitation and revenue generation from a desperate and generally poor population.」