One year ago today we celebrated the announced return of in-person visitation to the Travis County Jail here in Texas. The news came after a nearly 2-year fight led by those who had 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.
Though we are happy that we could celebrate a victory in Travis County and Texas, we know this company continues to reap massive profits while countless individuals across the country are denied access to see their incarcerated loved one face-to-face.
One reason we know this is because an op-ed ran in the New York Times today titled A Virtual Visit to a Relative in Jail. Maya Schenwar shares what it was like attempting to visit her sister in jail in Chicago, only to discover her only option to “visit” was through a video service called Securus.
The first time, after 10 minutes of waiting for her sister to appear on the screen, she called Securus’s tech support. She said, “I sat on the phone with a helpless tech person, crying. I knew my sister would be devastated. I was worried she’d think I hadn’t shown up.”
We also know this because today we heard that California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have stopped counties from replacing in-person visits with video visitation. The video visitation trend is spreading at an alarming rate, and now, like Maya, countless families in California will be denied the chance of seeing their incarcerated loved one face-to-face.
Today, as we are saddened and angered by Maya’s story and the news from California, we are eager to share the official release of our latest short documentary film,(In)Securus Technology: An Assault on Prisoner Rights, which chronicles the fight for in-person jail visits in Travis County, Texas and connects the dots between private, for-profit interests and incarceration.
We hope this film can serve as a tool to raise awareness and help others organize and fight back against profiteers like Securus that are threatening crucial connections to our loved ones who are locked up.
The short film is available here to stream online and/or order a DVD copy. Please watch and share widely.