(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today Grassroots Leadership celebrates the return of in-person visitation to the Travis County Jail. The decision to restore face-to-face in-person visits follows years of advocacy by formerly incarcerated people, their families, and allies after it was removed in favor of video visits administered by a private, for-profit technology company called Securus in 2013. Travis County Commissioners, and particularly County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, showed tremendous leadership in finding a creative budget solution with the Sheriff’s Office that made the restoration of in-person visits feasible. To our knowledge, Travis County is the only municipality that has restored in-person visits after running a video-only program at its county jail.
"Today I am happy to be a resident in Travis County, thankful that our voices were heard and families here have one more way to maintain their relationships! The work isn't over yet though, this practice still threatens families across the nation. My hope is that they can look to us and see that they too, can make a difference!" said Lauren Johnson of the Travis County Re-Entry Advocacy Project.
According to Travis County Jail administrators, in-person visits will begin at 9am on Tuesday April 19th. Those eligible for receiving in-person visit are in minimum or medium security levels, have been incarcerated for more than 60 days, and have not had any disciplinary infractions during their incarceration. In-person visitation will occur only during visitation blocks between 9am and 1pm, and take place through a pane of plexiglass. There are plans to expand in-person visiting hours to evening slots in the future, but our source said there are not currently plans for expanding in-person visits to those in maximum security or to those who have spent fewer than 60 days at Del Valle.
“We are so grateful that members of our community will have the chance to connect with their incarcerated loved ones face-to-face. This is a tangible victory that will have a huge positive impact on people’s lives,” said Kymberlie Quong Charles, Director of Criminal Justice Programs at Grassroots Leadership. “We also know from having worked with directly impacted folks on this campaign, that those visits between families and their loved ones are needed as soon as an individual is incarcerated. We will urge Sheriff Hamilton and his successor to expand in-person visitation as much as possible to afford the benefits of such visits to the greatest number of people.”
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.