Video Visitation

Humpday Hall of Shame: Another Texas county removes face-to-face jail visits

We are disappointed to learn that Denton is the newest Texas county to eliminate face-to-face visitation between those incarcerated at the county jail and their loved ones.  Like Travis and Bastrop counties, Denton County is now forcing "visitors" to use a video visitation system provided by Dallas-based Securus Technologies which charges users up to $20 for 20 minute "visits."  Consistent with reports from other counties, the system in Denton is sub-par.  "It was very choppy and pixelated, and at times where it would cut off completely and say it's trying to reconnect us," said one user.  Shame on Securus and Denton County for extorting those who are committed to mainting face-to-face ties with their loved ones by forcing them to pay for a system that doesn't work.  If you're as angry as we are, we invite you to join us for a protest at Denton County Jail next Thursday, February 26th and to sign and share this petition to Denton County Commissioners demanding that they find a way to restore in-person visitation.  

Just as we were about to pull our hair out learning of the news from Denton, our partners at the Prison Policy Initiative released this series of hilarious videos that shine a spotlight on the very complaints that we hear from those who have been forced to use video visitation services.  We applaud and give thanks to those who can use humor to shed light on these disgraceful practices and feel hopeful that messages like the ones below are the keys to making the ills of video visitation something everyone can relate to.     

 

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Feb 4, 2015
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Houston Chronicle

Quong-Charles and Renaud: Video-only visitation bad for inmates, county

While video technologies expand opportunities for communication, they are not the same as face-to-face visits. These opportunities are not worth embracing if they replace face-to-face visitation, which has happened in at least eight Texas counties. We are especially wary of the profit motive of private corporations delivering these services and the imposition of hardships on financially vulnerable people who will be driven to use them to see their incarcerated loved ones. [node:read-more:link]

Humpday Hall of Shame: Human Resources laurels for Securus' inhumane corporate practices

This week's Humpday Hall of Shame is written for us by guest blogger Jorge Renaud, policy analyst with the Texas Criminal Justice Coaliton


Words matter, as do the accolades we give to each other to recognize achievement and progress. Both must be grounded in an agreed-upon understanding of terms. Otherwise, we have a grotesquerie similar to the one achieved when Henry Kissinger – whose idea to deescalate the Vietnam War by bombing Cambodia resulted in 40,000 deaths there – was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.

An entity named DallasHR saw fit to award its 2014 Human Resource Executive of the Year Award to Kate Lengvel, a vice president in Human Resources for Securus Technology. If your memory needs refreshing, Securus is the Dallas-area company that provides telephone and video services to a bunch of U.S. jails and prisons and also trumpets a product line called Satellite Tracking of People (STOP). This latest is reminiscent of a long-time Texas tradition whereby ranchers staple identifying markers to the ears of their cattle to keep accurate counts of their herds, and it’s pretty well indicative of what Securus does – dehumanize incarcerated individuals and their families, all for profit.

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Nov 26, 2014
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Dallas Observer

Captive Audience: Counties and Private Businesses Cash in on Video Visits at Jails

Curious about how the limited human contact affects inmate behavior, he began filing open records requests once he got out of jail. Using data provided by Travis County, Renaud found that inmate infractions climbed from 820 in May 2012 to 1,160 in April 2014, and the facility went from averaging 940 infractions per month to 1,087 per month in that same period. Contraband into the facility increased 54 percent, the data showed, and inmate-on-inmate assaults increased 20 percent. Renaud published his work in an October report sponsored by Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based prison rights group. Most troubling for jail workers, Renaud's report found, inmate-on-staff assaults in Travis County jumped from three to six in the month immediately after the change, and have gradually increased since, topping out at eight in April 2014. [node:read-more:link]

Nov 13, 2014
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Austin-American Statesman

Editorial: In-person visitation should be an option at Travis, Bastrop jails

Just last month, inmate advocates in Austin called on sheriff’s officials to restore in-person visitation at Travis County jails, saying the video chatting system is costly for prisoners and their families and has not improved security as promoted. The advocates pointed to a recent study by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership that showed overall increase in disciplinary infractions, assaults and contraband between May 2012 and April 2014 in the county jail. Advocates say the results indicate conditions have worsened for prisoners. The findings are contrary to what the sheriff’s office said would happen when it introduced the video system in May 2013. At the time, the sheriff’s office said the new system would be safer for inmates. [node:read-more:link]

Nov 7, 2014
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The Austin Chronicle

Through a Glass, Darkly: County jail visitation now video-only

"We're being careful to say there's not a direct correlation, but it certainly hasn't decreased violence," says Grassroots Lead­er­ship's Kymberlie Quong Charles, who argues that there's a necessary human, physical element in face-to-face interactions. "Even through Plexiglas, it allows you to see the color of [an inmate's] skin, or other physical things with their bodies," she adds. "It's an accountability thing, and lets people on the outside get some read on the physical condition of a loved one. If there are concerns, it gives people on the outside a tool." [node:read-more:link]

Oct 16, 2014
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Austin-American Statesman

Advocates want Travis County to bring back face-to-face jail visits

Members of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership have released a study pointing to an overall increase in disciplinary infractions, assaults and contraband between May 2012 and April 2014. Advocates say the results indicate conditions have worsened for prisoners, though in announcing the launch of the video system in May 2013, the sheriff’s office said exclusive video visitation would better safety and security as deputies would no longer have to move inmates from one building to another for face-to-face visits and would be free for other duties. [node:read-more:link]

Oct 16, 2014
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Texas Observer

A Dallas Company Finds Profit in Video-Only Jail Visitations

“We believe Securus sees Texas county jails as a really ripe market for them,” said Kymberlie Quong Charles, an organizer with the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership. Securus, she pointed out, is a major provider of phone services for jails and prisons, but the FCC is cracking down on what it considers exorbitant rates. Video visitation could offer a source of revenue at a time of sagging profits for the industry. [node:read-more:link]

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