#inSecurus | Ensuring Visitation for Prisoners and their Loved Ones

In January, 2014 Grassroots Leadership became aware that all visits at the Travis County Jail (TX) had been replaced by a video chat system. The company providing the video visits, Securus Technologies, was raking in enormous profits charging families up to $20 for a 20-minute off-site visit (read more of the Travis County Story here). With no other option but to "visit" through a grainy video screen, crucial ties between families and their incarcerated loved ones were being threatened.

For nearly two years, Grassroots Leadership, alongside our community allies, waged a powerful campaign led by those who have experienced video jail visits first-hand and not only brought in-person visits back to Travis County, ​but​ also passed state legislation that will prevent other counties from replacing in-person visits with video chats.   

We assert that video chats are not equivalent to in-person, face-to-face visits; visitors should be given the option whether to utilize video chatting or to see their loved one in person; and those opting to utilize video chats should be protected from being charged exorbitant rates. Visit the links below to learn more and to get involved.

RESEARCH AND RESOURCES

Watch our documentary film, which chronicles the fight for in-person jail visits in Travis County, Texas and connects the dots between private, for-profit interests and incarceration.

Report and Fact sheet co-released by Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition on video visitation at the Travis County Jail  (October 2014):

Prison Policy Initiative national report:

Related Posts

Watch our new film, (In)Securus Technology: An Assault on Prisoner Rights

One year ago today we celebrated the announced return of in-person visitation to the Travis County Jail here in Texas. The news came after a nearly 2-year fight led by those who had experienced video jail visits first-hand, and not only brought in-person visits back to Travis County, but also passed state legislation that will prevent other counties from replacing in-person visits with video chats.  

Though we are happy that we could celebrate a victory in Travis County and Texas, we know this company continues to reap massive profits while countless individuals across the country are denied access to see their incarcerated loved one face-to-face. Read more about Watch our new film, (In)Securus Technology: An Assault on Prisoner Rights

May 24, 2016
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The Establishment

Inside The Fight To Protect Face-To-Face Visitation For Prisoners

When you’re behind bars, “there’s something psychologically uplifting about knowing someone is coming to visit you,” Jorge Renaud explained.

Renaud is an organizer with Grassroots Leadership and Texas Advocates for Justice who spoke with me by phone from Austin, Texas. He told me that unless you’ve been incarcerated, you can’t understand the emotional impact of a visit from a friend or loved one. His voice vibrated with emotion as he recalled those desperately needed visits, his tone expressing more than words could say. Read more about Inside The Fight To Protect Face-To-Face Visitation For Prisoners

May 5, 2016
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Mic.com

The End of Prison Visitation

Renaud spent three months in jail before he pled guilty to a diminished charge of reckless driving. Once he got out, Renaud got in touch with Bob Libal at Austin's Grassroots Leadership, a leading network of advocates in the fight against prison profiteering. He recounted to Libal his outrage at the profiteering and exploitation — the hopelessness of fighting with faulty technology in order to reach the people he needed most. Read more about The End of Prison Visitation

Face-to-Face Visits Return to Travis County Jail

(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. Read more about Face-to-Face Visits Return to Travis County Jail
Mar 14, 2016
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Texas Observer

New Technologies Connect Prisoners to the Outside World

Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that works to end for-profit prisons, has been fighting this policy at Austin’s Del Valle Jail.

Bob Libal, the group’s executive director, told the Observer that many video visitation contracts “were written in a way that was detrimental to loved ones being able to stay in communication with their incarcerated family members, particularly when it eliminated or incentivized people visiting from afar in order to make profit.”

After the nonprofit packed county budget hearings with concerned family members, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office agreed to reinstate physical in-person visitation by April.

For Libal, this highlights the double-edged sword of new prison technologies: they can benefit prisoners, but often benefit a corporation’s bottom line far more. “I don’t know that it is good or bad as a whole,” he said, “but I think we should be critical of the application of these technologies and ensure that they are used appropriately and not used to extract more money from already vulnerable people.” Read more about New Technologies Connect Prisoners to the Outside World

Grassroots Leadership and allies submit comments to the FCC on video visitation

This week Grassroots Leadership and many of our partners and allies submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission in hopes of improving the way video "visits" are currently being offered and sold at county jails and state prisons around the country.  Our comments can be viewed here. Read more about Grassroots Leadership and allies submit comments to the FCC on video visitation

Jan 14, 2016
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San Marcos Daily Record

Film slams ‘video visitation’ in county jails

Recent winners of The Austin Chronicle’s prestigious “2015 Critics’ Picks Award” – an honor also bestowed on a few San Marcos institutions, including Bower Bird and Centro Cultural Hispano – will comprise a panel at the sneak preview of a hard-hitting documentary to close the “Imposed Separateness” film series.

Chief organizers of Grassroots Leadership, a social-justice advocacy group based in Austin, will speak following the special screening of “(In)Securus Technologies: An Assault on the Rights of Prisoners” on Thursday, starting at 6:30 p.m., in the basement chapel of the San Marcos Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 604 N. Guadalupe St.

The film, due to officially premiere in Austin in the coming weeks, documents the societal impact of a new trend in Texas county jails including Hays County: elimination of in-person visitation, replaced by so-called “video visitation.” Read more about Film slams ‘video visitation’ in county jails

San Antonio media fails to report opposition to video visit plans at Bexar County Jail

Last week the San Antonio Express News posted this article about Bexar County’s imminent transition to video-only visitation at their county jail.  Despite outcry from community members, Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau and County Commissioners continue to push the plan forward.   Read more about San Antonio media fails to report opposition to video visit plans at Bexar County Jail

Dec 20, 2015
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San Antonio Express

Scheduled jail visits could address most Bexar issues

Advocates of jail visitation believe that incarcerated people should be allowed to maintain “in-person” contact between themselves and their loved ones.

Bexar County has proposed to eliminate in-person visitation at the Bexar County Detention Center. The alternative is to provide “video visitation” instead.

There is an organizing effort underway to keep in-person visits at BCDC. This effort began 17 months ago when Margarita McAuliffe, founder and lead organizer with Mothers Act for Criminal Justice Reforms, reached out to Diana Claitor with the Texas Jail Project and began working with other groups such as Grassroots Leadership, based in Austin. They have been working since early 2014 to restore in-person visitation at theTravis County Jail. Read more about Scheduled jail visits could address most Bexar issues

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