Video Visitation: How Private Companies Push for Visits by Video and Families Pay the Price

Jorge Antonio Renaud, MSSW / October 2014

“There are already too many industries taking advantage of inmates and their families, everything from overpriced commissary goods to incredibly expensive collect phone calls. We don’t need any more of these great, and expensive, ideas that prey on those who can least afford it.”

Bob Ray Sanders, Columnist, Ft. Worth Star Telegram

In September 2014, a group of Dallas-area advocates led a fight against an initiative that would have introduced video visitation capability to the Dallas County jail. The company proposing to provide services to Dallas had buried in its contract a requirement that the jail eliminate in-person visitation, thus leaving those who wished to visit prisoners only one option – visit by video. Or, don’t visit at all. Dallas officials voted the proposal down, but it was the latest front in a battle that has seen video-only visitation policies spreading across the country, primarily in local lockups. Embraced by jail officials as a way to alleviate what many see as the burdensome security aspects of prison visitation, the primary attraction of video-only visitation actually rests on one facet: money.

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