On a recent visit to the Securus Technology Website I found an interesting and new (to me) page. It appears that Securus is taking note of the advocacy efforts going on around them, compelling them to begin a public relations campaign to address concerns raised by critics of video visitation technology and their company in particular. This is Part 1 of a blog series that will address some of their myths and facts. They have left too many things out of their equations.
Of course, this webpage is found when you click on the corrections portion of their website, not the friends and family section. While the contracts that Securus acquires are with county and sheriff's offices, the real consumers, those who are paying for the product, are the ones this company seems to care the least about.
Securus, a Texas based company and self-proclaimed “leading provider of civil and criminal justice technology solutions” also appears to be leading the way in substandard products and customer service. Consumers of the “services” that Securus provides have a long history of documented and undocumented complaints as illustrated on the Better Business Bureau website:
“BBB has received hundreds of customer complaints,
most alleging that Securus Technologies fails to provide
acceptable product quality for its prison call services.
Many also claim that Securus Technologies provides poor
customer service to those that experience problems using
and paying for Securus Technologies services and fails to provide
refunds in a timely manner.As of November 6, 2014, the company has
failed to provide a written response to BBB's request for voluntary compliance.”
Let’s take a look at what Securus has to say about what the consumer saves by using remote video visitation technology instead of visiting a jail in-person:
Our Rebuttal: Some of the costs Securus factors into their equation are misleading, and there are other costs that they have not considered.
Let’s start with the latter:If we are going to consider the cost of childcare as well as things such as parking and mileage, lets do the reverse cost analysis for video visits:
Broadband internet to support the video visit: $29 ( monthly, not including set up, equipment fees, taxes and surcharges)*
PC or Laptop ( Not Mac ) with network requirements $226 ( refurbished)**
Separate webcam with built in microphone $22**
Bank Account- if you don’t have one, you’ll need to open one so that you can prepay for your visit, or as Securus suggests you can get a prepaid visa or mastercard $3.95-6.95
Of course, some people don’t need to buy a computer, and some people don’t have to buy a webcam, but we could also say that some people don’t have to pay for parking, or take time off of work. I’d even venture as far as to say that a significant portion of folks going to visit can’t take time off from work and have to schedule the visits around their time off, whether or not they are visiting in-person or via a video chat.
And now the former:
Sure, some people may pay for childcare when they visit their loved ones, but a lot of people bring their children to visitation for in person visits.
Overnight lodging for $20?, where are you staying, The Early 1990’s Inn? If that’s the case you need not worry, because in the 1990’s there was no threat that your in-person visit would be replaced by a video system!
Most of the people who are forced to use video visitation are often found in the same or nearby city as the county jail, making the opportunities more abundant for visitation than for those who have been sent to a rural prison several hours away.
It’s important to note that Securus’ analysis of video visitation is that of a remote user, someone who is using video technology to “visit” from somewhere other than the jail facility. It does not acknowledge that more and more frequently, people are being forced to use the same video visitation technology when they show up in person to visit a loved one in jail. The difference is between video visits onsite and offsite (remotely) is that the visitor is not charged a fee when using video onsite. However, they will still incur all the same costs of showing up to visiting hours for a visit through a monitor. It's clear to see that when jails employ video visitation policies, either way, the families of those with incarcerated loved ones end up paying the price to visit.
My calculations show that video visitation is not the cheapest means of visiting. But with companies that profiteer from those who can least afford it, things rarely add up.
* Average price of compared services,packages vary based on a range of factors compared by White Fence
** Average based on compatible products found on Walmart.com