Video Visitation

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."
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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. [node:read-more:link]

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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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.  

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: [node:read-more:link]

Securus Myth vs. Fact Analysis | PART 1

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.

County Jail Visitation Bill Filed Without Signature, Becomes Law

Austin, TX - Last night HB 549 was filed, making the legislation official law. Authored by Dallas Representative Eric Johnson, and Houston Senator John Whitmire, HB 549 clarifies existing county jail rules stating that the two weekly 20-minute visits afforded to all people in jail are to happen in-person and face-to-face.  The current policy has been in place since 1993. [node:read-more:link]

ACTION ALERT May 19, 2015 | We need you ASAP to protect jail visitation for Texas families!

May 19, 2015
 
The legislative process is long and layered and takes several rounds of engagement before a bill passes.  With your help we have gotten HB 549, a bill that protects the face-to-face visitation rights of people incarcerated at Texas county jails from being replaced with expensive, poor quality video chats, all the way to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.  In order for it to have a chance of passing, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee needs to hear from you TODAY.  (see more background here)
 
Please call and write the members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee ASAP and let them know you support protecting face-to-face visits at County Jails.  Consider reminding them that the Texas debate on the issue has gained national attention, and we have a perfect opportunity to set an important precedent for the rights of incarcerated people and their loved ones.  Below is a brief list of notable state and national media about visitation, video technology and county jails in Texas.  
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May 13, 2015
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The Texas Observer

Lawmakers Could Slow Spread of Video-Only Jail Visitations

Prison phone service companies like Dallas-based Securus Technologies, Inc. have found a new way to profit from their captive audience: video visitation systems. In the last two years, at least 25 county jails in Texas have installed video terminals that allow inmates to chat with friends, family and others on the outside. Like the phone systems, the cost of using the service is steep: up to $1 per minute for a Skype-like chat, not including usage fees and taxes. But the real kicker is that in many cases the video systems are replacing in-person visits.

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Grassroots Leadership has been trying to get in-person visitations restored at the Travis County Jail for almost two years. The group was alerted to the situation there after the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit against Securus and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly unlawfully recording the video chats. Another lawsuit was filed in March on behalf of Derrick Matthew Rice, a 29-year-old inmate at the Denton County Jail, against Securus, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The suit claims that eliminating in-person visits is a violation of what’s already stipulated in jail standards. [node:read-more:link]

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