More Prisons Banning In-Person Visits, Adding To Securus Tech's Pile Of Cash

from the it's-ok-because-prisoners-aren't-human-beings,-amirite dept

Jails and prisons continue to sacrifice what few physical interactions prisoners have with loved ones on the outside to phone service provider Securus. The New Orleans Advocate reports a local jail is the latest in a long line of correctional facilities to ban in-person visits, replacing them with Securus communication software and hardware.

Inmates at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna will no longer be able to receive in-person visits from relatives and friends beginning Oct. 10, when the facility will begin a "video visitation" program similar to one put in place at New Orleans' lockup a couple of years ago.

To jailers, this move just makes sense. It all but eliminates contraband smuggling and allows prisons and jails to allocate fewer staffers to monitoring prisoner visits. But it makes little sense for those stuck inside and even less sense for those on the outside who will be spending a lot more money on visits that used to be free.

The Sheriff's Office said 20-minute sessions will cost nearly $13.

At this per minute rate, it makes no difference visiting hours are being expanded. While it may sometimes be more convenient to Skype prisoners than visit in person, no one's asking for $0.60/minute communications to be their only option.

But this is something Securus has pushed for a long time. Back in 2015, Securus finally dropped a clause in its contracts that mandated correctional facilities using its equipment move to video-only visits. But that doesn't mean jails aren't still heavily encouraged to ban in-person visits. The pivot to video doesn't just generate an absurd amount of income for the communications provider. It also pads the pockets of prisons.

Jails stand to make a profit by adopting this type of visitation. If families do a video visit at the jail, it's free, but if they do it from their home computer, it can cost $1 per minute. Securus promised the Cheshire County Jail a 20 percent cut of the thousands of dollars those fees bring in — that cut totaled $2,500 for the jail last year. The county paid $30,000 to install the video system.

This perversity incentivizes prison and jails to further dehumanize inmates by cutting them off from most, if not all, outside human contact while incarcerated. Jails don't have to step up to full-on bans to discourage visits. They can just enact highly-intrusive search policies and shorten visiting hours to achieve the same effect.

The push to video further benefits the state by ensuring almost every communication between prisoners and outsiders is recorded. In-person visits may be lightly-surveilled by staff, but calls routed through Securus hardware/software are swept up in their entirety, easily accessed by the government.

It's not like prisoners aren't warned that all calls are recorded, but these bans eliminate any possibility of an intimate one-on-one conversation with a loved one or family member.

Just as problematic is the government's access to every conversation. While prisoners have an extremely diminished expectation of privacy, the government has repeatedly overstepped the very minimal boundaries remaining to listen in on privileged calls from prisoners to their legal reps.

And if the per call price seems high now, it's only going to get worse. Along with attacking net neutrality and loosening regulation of telcos and cable companies, FCC chairman Ajit Pai has made it clear the sky's the limit for prison phone call fees.

In the end, very little will be done about it. Convicted prisoners are the least sympathetic group when it comes to pushing new legislation. Very few politicians are willing to go to bat for incarcerated people and even fewer constituents are willing to support candidates who appear the least bit empathetic for those behind bars. Topping it all off is the fact that those affected the most cannot vote, despite being handy sources of federal revenue for states and cities housing inmates.

The push will continue to further isolate prisoners, which is only going to serve to reduce the chances of societal reintegration after they've done their time. But that's OK, because the harder it is to return to normal life, the greater the chance released inmates will end up back in prison racking up $15 phone calls that benefit Securus and others willing to shamelessly exploit a very captive audience.


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  • identicon
    Dee, 3 Oct 2017 @ 7:57pm

    If the FCC takes bold action to limit how much the prison phone industry can charge incarcerated people and their families for talking on the phone, the decision could help out thousands of families, many of whom are already living paycheck to paycheck. But it remains to be seen whether the FCC will bow to the pressure of the telecom industry with its large coffers of cash.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2017 @ 9:09pm

      Re:

      "But it remains to be seen whether the FCC will bow to the pressure of the telecom industry with its large coffers of cash."

      Say what? They are busy sucking telecom dick... what is this discussion about whether they will bow to shit?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 2:47am

        Re: Re:

        The question isn't 'if', but 'how quickly and to what extent', with the likely answers being 'as quickly as possible, and as far as it takes to maximize profits'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 6:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The question isn't 'if', but 'how quickly and to what extent'

          I imagine Mr. Pai is already loosening the belt on his trenchcoat and applying lube while still in the cab on the way to telecom HQ.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 3 Oct 2017 @ 8:28pm

    To jailers, this move just makes sense. It all but eliminates contraband smuggling...

    Wouldn't having the prisoners and visitors speak through a window with a small grill do the same thing?

    You could still charge $13 every few minutes to cover the operating costs of that small grill and to research the next generation of wire mesh grill technology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2017 @ 8:44pm

    The cynic in me also means the prison has removed lots of *competition* in supplying contraband.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 3 Oct 2017 @ 9:06pm

      Re:

      This. Given the level of security enforced in visitation rooms -- many of which have a solid sheet of glass between visitor and inmate -- it's pretty obvious that most of the smuggling is done by prison staff, not visitors.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 3 Oct 2017 @ 10:19pm

      Re:

      It's not just contraband, it's ANYTHING. When you have a captive market (literally), you can charge anything at all for things like toothpaste, shampoo, paper, envelopes, etc. Can't let relatives supply all that on the cheap!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    YaTOG, 3 Oct 2017 @ 9:31pm

    Securus corporation = Criminals

    Seems like Securus corporate officers should be ones that are required to use the services.
    ie - they should be imprisoned for grand theft.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobby b, 3 Oct 2017 @ 9:48pm

    This would be an excellent service for all concerned if the prisons offered both in-person visits and this video option.

    People who couldn't take the time or mileage to get there - or who can't bundle up the kids and bring them regularly - could sign in and pay the fee (which actually strikes me as cheaper than transport for most visitors, given how jails and prisons tend not to be right on the easy bus line). Would probably result in lots more visits, which supposedly help keep prisoners socialized.

    People who want face time could make the trip. Visiting days would be less crowded, and cheaper to administer.

    Win-win. Except the jail signed the lousy deal with the vendor that says we'll make sure you make money by banning in-person visits.

    Allowing both might have made it unsustainable financially, I suppose, but they should share their reasoning publicly so it's transparent what kind of decisions are being made o/b/o the people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2017 @ 11:39pm

    Can someone explain how this is different from racketeering?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 12:46am

    Preparing for re-integration?

    Hm, I wonder how this extra isolation from family and friends is helping prepare the inmates for the re-integration into society once their sentence is over...

    Bwahaha, who am I kidding. Re-integration isn't on the list of goals of the US prison system. Repeat customers is what they want!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 4 Oct 2017 @ 2:49am

    The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

    Sadly, cruel and unusual punishment is being inflicted on the prisoners AND their families.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 3:01am

    yet another step towards the almost complete 'Big Brother Is Watching' state of existence! no privacy, no freedom for anyone, with this being just the place to start.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Prashanth (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 4:48am

    TV ads

    I remember seeing TV ads a while ago for Securus. It was disgusting to see how nakedly they were trying to profiteer off of imprisonment while sprucing up the image of their modus operandi to the general public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 4:51am

    And they wonder why the majority of people that leave jails just fall back to crime. You know what's cheaper, USA? Just kill them all. The tyrants, psychopaths and sociopaths wet dream.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 4:56am

    "Cruel and Unusual"

    Cruel is in the eyes of the beholder; a slap on the wrist and a stern word is cruel to a two-year old; caning can seem a blessing when compared to amputation. Punishments should be unusual in order to be effective; if punishments were usual, nobody would work to avoid them.

    It sucks to be a convict - it's supposed to suck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 5:40am

      Re: "Cruel and Unusual"

      I'm sure that's the case.

      And, in fact, the people who know exactly how bad it is in there will be the ones for whom the disincentive will surely work best. That is, once you've gone to jail, the worse the treatment is, the less likely you'll be to reoffend.

      That being the case, the recidivism rate (the rate at which released criminals reoffend) in the US must be much lower than that in countries where they coddle their criminals (that is, treat them like human beings).

      What? You say that recidivism is much lower in Scandinavian countries, where the focus is on rehabilitation and helping the person reintegrate into society rather than inflicting punishment?

      Clearly, that's fake news. Or so we'll tell ourselves to justify our need to be cruel to people we see as less human than ourselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:12am

      Re: "Cruel and Unusual"

      Reality, we have people who have already demonstrated they are willing to commit crime. Returning them to society with a strong justification to to take out vengeance. Punishments above and beyond the sentence the court ordered. It actually works out really well, to give people like you their warm and fuzzies because hey, they got theirs. It works out even better for the for profit prisons and the pile-of-cash building the investors get. Who cares about recidivism rates, USA, USA, USA! Punishment, punishment, punishment!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 9:17am

        Re: Re: "Cruel and Unusual"

        Whoever said crime doesn't pay obviously doesn't work for the American prison system.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 1:50pm

        "Willing to commit crime."

        We all commit three felonies a day, and it's only due to prosecutorial discretion that each and every one of us is not in lockup.

        Every year it's more and more convincing that fewer and fewer of our impacted penal population was convicted for a crime that they actually committed, what with perverse incentives and false forensic science and all.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:17am

      Re:

      I think what you may have missed in the article is that this is applied to both convicts (prisons & jails) and unconvicted inmates (jails).

      Inmates are not convicted of anything yet. They are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty yet still have all of their rights stripped from them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Cdaragorn (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 9:40am

      Re: "Cruel and Unusual"

      "if punishments were usual, nobody would work to avoid them"

      Where on earth did you get this twisted line of logic from? A whip across my back hurts just as much no matter how many times I've had it applied.

      It's this exact kind of uncaring attitude that leads people to repeat their crimes and increases crime in general. Someone doing something wrong does not make it right to toss them to the dogs. The point of ANY punishment short of capital should always be to help the person want to change.

      Any punishment that doesn't have that as it's goal is just torture for the pleasure of the punisher.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 9:45am

      Re: "Cruel and Unusual"

      Prison is not supposed to be about vengeance.
      Increased levels of cruelty does not stop the crime.
      But it does get votes

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SirWired, 4 Oct 2017 @ 5:23am

    Slight edit needed:

    "To jailers, this move just makes sense. It all but eliminates contraband smuggling" by visitors, which was creating too much competition with smuggling by staff, whom have always been responsible for most of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 8:44am

    How a company shown to have intercepted privileged communications, leaking their entire database, & other upstanding things can get this job is sorta shocking.

    This is happening because no one cares.
    They are in jail, they deserves bad things.
    We get a little tingle on the inside when we read about how their lives were made a little worse, & refuse to understand the idea that perhaps doing these sorts of things "hardens" a criminal.

    But they are only doing it to poor people, who just refuse to lift themselves up by their bootstraps & expect the world to be fair.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 9:48am

      Re:

      "They are in jail, they deserves bad things."

      Except some of them do not belong there


      "But they are only doing it to poor people, who just refuse to lift themselves up by their bootstraps & expect the world to be fair."

      I'm certain many actually think that ... I guess it allows them to sleep better.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 2:02pm

      Expecting the world to be fair

      The Department of Justice closes cases about 35% of the time and that's including those in which they pinned guilt on a convenient bystander by planting evidence or lying in court.

      Once we dispell the myth that society is, at least, trying to enforce a certain degree of fairness, then there's no reason not to go into crime, when it offers a decent increase in the opportunity for a better life. If all of society gives no fucks, why not subvert it? When the police are too busy chasing and seizing assets to enforce law anymore, legitimacy and righteousness is determined only by strength of force.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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