In this series, we are examining the latest in public relations and marketing tactics from Securus Technologies, which details their version of myths and facts surrounding their video visitation product. Part 1 can be found here and part 2 here. Lets take a look at what they have to say about quality and profit.
Myth: The quality of the visit is diminished with remote visitation and inmates are less well behaved when in-person visitation is reduced.
Fact: Quality is difficult to measure. Yes, seeing a loved one on a screen is different than seeing them in person; however, many sites have moved away from contact visitation and only allow visitation through glass partitions with telephones for audio. In contrast, remote visitation allows for visits directly from home which can be far less stressful for all concerned. Inmates can interact with their entire families in their homes and participate in social gatherings and family events. Family members can avoid crowded waiting areas, personal searches, and stressful situations by staying home. We have surveyed our video visitation customer base and have not found a site that indicates inmate behavior problems due to the existence of remote video visitation.
We Say: One measure of quality that is used all the time to gauge a product’s viability in the free world is consumer satisfaction. The complaints filed with the BBB illustrate an inherent lack of customer satisfaction on many levels. Additionally, a recent survey of family and friends visiting a county jail, administered voluntarily by the jail itself, indicated that 91%* of visitors prefer to see their loved one through the glass partition than on a video monitor. To our knowledge, the existence of remote video visitation has never been cited as a reason for inmate behavior problems, but the removal of in person visitation has been linked to increased instances of violence and contraband**. Since the practice of wholly removing in-person visitation and replacing it with video chats has only emerged in recent years, there is insufficient data to discern what the true impact of video-only visitation policies is on people who are incarcerated. However, many individuals have shared with us their frustrations with using the system as an incarcerated person. People reported that the removal of in-person visitation increased feelings of disconnectedness from their loved ones. One person shared this with us:
”In my time of incarceration I did see fights erupt. Often it was over something seemingly small and insignificant, one time I remember getting really mad because I was out voted to watch something on the television set, I mean really mad! I went to my bunk and started really thinking about why I cared so much about a television show especially when outside of the jail I rarely watched tv. Then I realized, I didn’t care about the television show, I cared about the distraction. I didn’t want to have to think about all the things that were out of my control as I sat there in limbo. Visitation is like that in a way. When you are sitting there and looking your loved one in the eyes, it’s as if in that moment, you aren’t there ( in jail) anymore. But, being forced to see them in a monitor just reinforces the sense of helplessness and disconnection."
Myth: Companies providing remote visitation are making high profits.
Fact: Securus has invested over $32M in developing, assembling, installing, and supporting video visitation in correctional facilities. To date, Securus has recouped a fraction of this amount through usage fees. Securus offers video visitation primarily as requested by facilities in RFPs for inmate telephone contracts.
We Say: $32 million is but a small drop in the bucket for a company that had revenue totalling $404.6 million dollars with the profits totalling $114.6 million, according to this Huffington Post article.
Companies invest money so they can make money, not because they are being charitable. Like many other “leaders” in the industry that profits off of mass incarceration, Securus finds ways to cut corners and increase its profits on the backs of its consumers in an effort to fill the pockets of its stockholders. Customers aren’t the only way that this company has found to increase their profit. One website where current and former employees can rate and comment on their employer, features many comments from Securus employees. Like many of the companies profiting from incarceration, Securus also has a history of not paying or treating employees particularly well. As one person put it: "Securus treats their employees like inmates, …….literally” Below we have highlighted just a few of the reviews that employees left :
“Internal processes are very broken. The company is not straight up with customers” “Overemphasis on dollars over customer experience”
"They are a total sham. They have no consideration for their employees. They treat us like the inmates that we service. Extreme Micromanaged no real defined process on how to manage projects. We are just making them up as they go”
“High-level management valued getting products out the door rather than ensuring quality.” “pay of $10/hr is bottom of the barrel compared to other call centers and does not come close to satisfactory for the work you do and the unrealistic call quotas (80 calls per day)”
Private prison critics may be familiar with the term quota as many private prison contracts include lock-up quotas for the minimum number of people that the company will be paid to incarcerate. Companies that provide remote visitation are making a high profit, but that profit comes at the cost to incarcerated people, their families, and even, it seems, Securus employees.
*according to a survey by Travis County Sheriff’s office
** Report by Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition