#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In January, 2014 Grassroots Leadership became aware that all visits at the Travis County Jail (TX) had been replaced by a video chat system.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

Sep 3, 2015
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Texas Public News Service

Texas Takes the Lead with In-Person Visitation Law

AUSTIN, Texas – A new law passed by the Texas State Legislature last session goes into effect this week, assuring county jail inmates of at least two 20-minute in-person visits per week.

The legislation was introduced in response to a growing trend of replacing face-to-face visitation with video technology. Kymberlie Quong Charles, director of criminal justice programs with Grassroots Leadership, says the value of traditional visitation extends beyond prison walls.

"Staying connected to community, staying connected to family, leads to much more stability and opportunity for people who are leaving a period of incarceration," she says. "This ultimately leads to lower recidivism rates."
  Read more about Texas Takes the Lead with In-Person Visitation Law

Legislation protecting in-person county jail visits goes into effect

(AUSTIN, Texas) — September 1st marks the first day of the fiscal year in Texas, as well as the effective date of new laws passed by the 84th legislative session.  HB 549, which clarifies existing rules for visiting policies at Texas’ county jails, will now help assure that incarcerated people receive a minimum of two 20-minute in-person, face-to-face visits per week. Read more about Legislation protecting in-person county jail visits goes into effect

Aug 7, 2015
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¡Ahora Si!

Activistas presionan a comisionados de Travis por presupuesto

Diversas organizaciones que velan por los derechos de las personas encarceladas y los inmigrantes exigieron el jueves 6 a los comisionados del condado de Travis que elaboren lo que denominaron un presupuesto ‘justo’ y que incluya dos peticiones por las que han luchado por años.

Durante una conferencia de prensa celebrada en la Corte de Comisionados del Condado de Travis, voceros de Grassroots Leadership, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition y de la campaña ICE Out of Austin pidieron que se reinstalen las visitas personales a internos de la cárcel local y que se elimine la colaboración entre la Oficina del Alguacil y el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE).

“Estamos aquí para decirles (a los comisionados) que esperamos que vayan a trabajar en lo que les hemos solicitado, un verdadero presupuesto justo”, dijo Kymberlie Quong, de Grassroots Leadership.

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Read more about Activistas presionan a comisionados de Travis por presupuesto

Securus Myth Vs. Fact Analysis Finale

States that have begun to use video visitation

Over the past few weeks we have delved into the mythical world of facts that surround a marketing campaign released by Securus on their website. As we come to the end of this series that counters their version of myths and facts surrounding the video visitation product that is taking over visitation in jails across America, we also wanted to educate people on a little bit of the other side of the coin in this industry. Lets start by addressing the last part of the fact page that Securus has created.

Read more about Securus Myth Vs. Fact Analysis Finale

Grassroots Leadership applauds efforts to reduce mass incarceration in Travis County

(AUSTIN, Texas) — We applaud Sheriff Greg Hamilton’s recognition that our criminal justice system is “not functioning as it should” as he called today for more to be done to end mass incarceration. Specifically, the sheriff said that the United States spends too much money incarcerating too many people, and the result does not increase public safety. Indeed, according to the NAACP, $70 billion are spent yearly on corrections. This expensive criminal justice system does not serve taxpayers and disproportionately impacts people of color. Read more about Grassroots Leadership applauds efforts to reduce mass incarceration in Travis County

OITNB visitation room vs. reality: #PrisonSkype

At Litchfield, Piper and the women with whom she is incarcerated receive many visitors throughout the Orange is the New Black (OITNB) series.  Some people visit with friends and family, including their children, and others receive visits from charitable organizations, pen pals, and sometimes even strangers.  What’s common about all of the visits portrayed in the show are that they happen in a room where the women  and their visitors sit across from one another at tables with nothing in between them.  In prison policy speak this is referred to as “a contact visit.”  Although the degree of permissible contact is limited, which we see as Litchfield’s correctional officers intervene when (in their judgement) a boundary has been crossed, the women and their visitors experience an interaction on par with that of two people sitting across a kitchen table.   Read more about OITNB visitation room vs. reality: #PrisonSkype;

Securus Myth Vs. Fact Analysis Part 2

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 from their perspective. In the last installment we looked at their cost analysis of remote video visitation compared to traveling to the facility and our analysis showed that either way, families pay. In this installment we look at their next two statements: Read more about Securus Myth Vs. Fact Analysis Part 2

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