Video Visitation

May 12, 2015
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Dallas Observer

Texas Lawmakers May Require County Jails to Allow In-Person Visits

"While we understand that the financial burden of retrofitting these few county facilities is a hardship for counties, we are also very concerned about the families and their incarcerated loved ones who have been stripped of their ability to see each other in person, a practice we know leads to positive outcomes for rehabilitation and recidivism," Kymberlie Quong Charles, director of criminal justice programs at Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based inmate advocacy organization, said. "This emotional and financial hardship on families was not calculated when these counties opted to move toward facility construction that precludes face-to-face visitation."

The amendment, according to Grassroots Leadership, will exempt about a dozen counties from the requirements. [node:read-more:link]

May 11, 2015
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Texas Tribune

House Gives Tentative OK to Visitation Rights for Inmates

But critics of video visitation have denounced it as a for-profit endeavor that has further disconnected inmates from the outside world. According to Johnson, eliminating in-person visitation has led to an increase in inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults in Texas jails. Advocacy groups have also pointed out that not all visitors have the technological literacy required to use the devices and that glitches and poor audio quality are common.

"When jail standards were written, the idea of connecting people by video was not a twinkle in anybody's eye," said Kymberlie Quong Charles, the director of criminal justice programs for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin organization that advocates for inmates. "In our opinion, it is not the equivalent in quality of an in-person visitation." [node:read-more:link]

Texas House Passes County Jail Visitation Bill

Austin, TX — Today the Texas House of Representatives passed HB 549 by Dallas Rep. Eric Johnson which clarifies the state’s standards on visitation at county jails.  The bill mandates that county jails afford prisoners two face-to-face, 20-minute, non-contact visits per week, and prohibits counties from eliminating face-to-face visits with new technology like video chats.  
Apr 30, 2015
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QUARTZ

Are video visits a smart innovation for jails—or yet another way to exploit families?

Crucially, it’s not just the inmates who are being punished when in-person visits are banned, or when the costs of video visits become prohibitive. “There are people on the outside who are living the experience of incarceration with the people who are locked up, who are also not getting a choice in this situation,” said Kymberlie Quong Charles from advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. [node:read-more:link]

Apr 8, 2015
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International Business Times

Video Chats Are Replacing In-Person Jail Visits, While One Tech Company Profits

In 2013, the Federal Communications Commission finally capped prison phone rates, which were notoriously expensive. Securus was one of the many companies that provided this service. However, one area the FCC did not regulate was video visits. Kymberlie Quong Charles, an activist in Texas, says the push toward video visitations is "a way of ensuring profits" that were lost by the 2013 FCC ruling.  [node:read-more:link]

ACTION ALERT | Visitation rights at Texas county jails are under threat

Call NOW to protect visitation for families and their incarcerated loved ones

Video technology is threatening the visitation rights of people incarcerated at county jails across Texas, and we have a tremendous opportunity today and tomorrow to protect this right.  Please call and email the members of the House County Affairs Committee to let them know why protecting face-to-face visitation for inmates and their families matters to you, and ask them to pass HB 549 which would ensure that those incarcerated at Texas county jails are entitled to face-to-visits twice a week, and their loved ones will not be forced to pay to see them through a video chat service.  The County Affairs Committee will be debating the bill tomorrow morning,Thursday, April 9th.  See below for more background and talking points.

[node:read-more:link]

Ire Against Video Visitation at Texas County Jails Mounts

Denton, TX — The law offices of Bodkin, Niehaus, & Dickson, PLLC filed a class action lawsuit today against Securus Technologies Holdings, Inc, alleging that the Company’s requirement that the county eliminate in person visitation in favor of a video-only option using solely Securus’ services provides Securus with a monopoly in violation of state and federal law.  The intention of the suit is to motivate Denton County to allow various forms of visitation, and perhaps return to previous visitation policies that permitted free, face-to-face visitation.   [node:read-more:link]

Mar 9, 2015
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Al Jazeera America

Video visitation threatens to put more distance between inmates and family

Lauren Johnson spent a month as an inmate at the Travis County Correctional Complex, near Austin, back before in-person visitation was eliminated entirely in 2013. Johnson, now an advocate for prison reform, said her husband made sure to schedule in-person visits and avoid the video terminals so that their three children could see her in the flesh. “It’s not something you can quantify,” she said. “Eye contact is a huge deal. It’s blowing them kisses and putting your hand to the glass. The kids get lost with the video terminals. It’s just not the same experience. It’s a disconnected feeling.” [node:read-more:link]

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