- First, we think it's unconscionable that there is no ability for people incarcerated at Travis County Jail to spend time with family and their loved ones. Furthermore, denying in-person visitation is counter to best practices; research demonstrates that in-prison visitation is crucial to maintaining family ties, especially between children and their incarcerated parents, and contributes to reductions in recidivism.
- Second, the Travis County Sheriff’s department contracts the video conferencing service out to a private company called Securus. "Visitors" are charged $20 for twenty minute video conferences. Based in Dallas, Securus makes roughly $30 million annually through phone and video conferencing services in jails and prisons across the country.
- Finally, the Travis County Sheriff’s department has used recordings from the Securus video conferencing service to provide prosecutors with documentation of conversations between defense lawyers and their clients, a violation of attorney-client privilege that could hinder attorneys’ ability to defend their clients in court. The Texas Civil Rights Project has since filed a federal lawsuit against the Sheriff's department for eavesdropping on privileged conversations.
At the time of our testimony, Travis County Commissioners expressed concern and stated that they would be following up on this issue. Six months later there is still no in-person visitation at Travis County Jail. What's more, we've heard from people who rely on the Securus service to connect with their family members that there are multiple barriers to actually using it, including problems creating an account, technical problems with the service itself, and unhelpful customer service. Based on these accounts and our initial concerns, Grassroots Leadership is working with local partners to pressure local officials to take action.
Sign the petition calling on the Travis County Sheriff’s department to end eavesdropping at the Travis County Jail and to restore in-person visitation. People accused of a crime deserve the right to private counsel, and families should not carry the weight of an arbitrary tax, simply to line a contractor’s pockets.