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Technology

Jails Are Replacing Visits With Video Calls (arstechnica.com) 194

An anonymous reader shares a report: In recent years, more and more jails have introduced video-calling services. Theoretically, these products could make it easier for inmates to maintain their relationships with family and friends outside. But many jails have moved in the opposite direction, using the advent of these "video visitation" services as an excuse to restrict or eliminate traditional in-person visits.

There are a number of reasons jail administrators have gone this route. But critics say that money plays a big role. In-person visitation requires more staff supervision -- both to escort inmates to and from visitation rooms and to make sure no contraband changes hands during a visit. So switching to video visitation can save cash-strapped jails money.

But jails also profit more directly from limiting in-person visits. While on-site video visits are usually free, the companies providing the system generally offer a paid off-site video-calling service, too. And jails get a hefty percentage of that money.

Jails Are Replacing Visits With Video Calls

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2018 @11:26AM (#56608512)
    Studies have consistently found that prisoners who maintain close contact with their family members while incarcerated have better post-release outcomes and lower recidivism rates. These findings represent a body of research stretching back over 40 years. For example, according to “Explorations in Inmate-Family Relationships,” a 1972 study: “The central finding of this research is the strong and consistent positive relationship that exists between parole success and maintaining strong family ties while in prison. Only 50 percent of the ‘no contact’ inmates completed their first year on parole without being arrested, while 70 percent of those with three visitors were ‘arrest free’ during this period. In addition, the ‘loners’ were six times more likely to wind up back in prison during the first year (12 percent returned compared to 2 percent for those with three or more visitors). For all Base Expectancy levels, we found that those who maintained closer ties performed more satisfactorily on parole.” https://www.prisonlegalnews.or... [prisonlegalnews.org]
    • Video calling allows for much more frequent contact, so according to your study prisoners would be better off using the video system.

      • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @11:31AM (#56608548)

        They'd be better off using both, to be honest. Video is not a replacement for friendly human contact in person. All other in-perosn human contact in a prison (with jailers, other inmates) is likely to be abusive.

        A good way to warp someone's mind is to only allow them abusive/coersive human contact.

        • Yeah it would've been best if this was in addition to regular visits. I would bet that it would reduce in-person meetings a bit as well since they're a pain in the ass. E.g. instead of weekly visitation, do video calls a few times a week and in-person every other week or so. Would be a win-win for everyone.

          • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

            E.g. instead of weekly visitation, do video calls a few times a week and in-person every other week or so. Would be a win-win for everyone.

            They are not looking for "win-win". They are looking for lowering costs and to charge monopoly-based prices.
            They used to have costs of $14/minute [cnn.com] until an attempt to cap at 11c-22c minute. Which apparently failed, at least based on the CNN article.

        • Both is indeed the best way to go. Back in 2010, I was in one of the first jails to use a system like this. It was so much better than a phone for staying in touch with my mother thousands of miles away, but infuriating when they ended in person visits with my fiancee and father who were local. It was obnoxiously punitive too; in-person visits were already behind full glass so there was no security issue at all, then they constructed an entire new building, with close to 100 video chat terminals (for a jail
          • I have no idea how the last sentence of the first paragraph got cut off there, it was fine in the preview, but it was 'for a jail population of LESS THAN* 500), with a bunch in private rooms for lawyers, I can't imagine the the kickback they must have gotten for that one.

            * - That must be how, Slashdot thought my less than was an opening HTML bracket and just truncated until the line break tag when it didn't find a close.
      • by Holi ( 250190 )
        "Video calling allows for much more frequent contact,"

        According to who? Sure it sounds like it should, but everything prison related tends to be expensive.

        So if you are going to make the claim it allows for more frequent contact then you had better back it up with facts.
        • According to who? Sure it sounds like it should, but everything prison related tends to be expensive.

          Expensive is relative. Making a trip out to see someone is prison is also expensive; for many it may involve a hotel stay and hours of driving.

          It's pretty obvious that allowing for video calls allows for more contacts even if you factor in some other issues like expense. People can do daily or weekly visits where they might have only been able to go once a month.

          You say I need to back up this blindingly ob

      • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
        In theory, but the video system used requires the people using it to got to a facility AT the prison to use it. Basically the worst of both systems
        • Used where? All the ones I've seen allow people to visit from home over the internet, in addition to terminals at the facility for those without internet, a computer, and a webcam (which is quite a few since inmates families and friends tend to also be poor).
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        If they or their families can afford it. Note that the for-profit prisons see it primarily as a new revenue source, not a necessary service to fulfill their contracts.

    • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @11:28AM (#56608532)
      L-O-L. Many states don't care about reducing recidivism. Let 'em go, lock 'em back up. After all, we have private prisons to fill and kickbacks (I mean, contract bonuses) to collect.
      • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @11:52AM (#56608730) Homepage

        And if you don't bother reducing recidivism, you can make the case that "once a criminal, always a criminal." Then, you push for harsher sentencing and longer jail times. This results in more people in prison, more profits for those private prisons, and more votes for those "tough on crime" politicians.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Recidivism is not about the criminal or the prison or the POS corporations that run prison, RECIDIVISM IS ABOUT FUTURE VICTIMS, or more specifically they lack of them. The corporations that run prisons don't want to be talking about that because they love recidivism more profit but of course, privatise the profits and socialise the losses. The losses in this case, more fucking victims of crimes, completely unnecessary victims of crimes but of course their suffering means more fucking corporate profits. Reci

    • by bsolar ( 1176767 )

      That's a well known scientific truth, but focusing on long term rehabilitation requires cultural progress.

      First of all it has to be recognised as long term investment: if all you care is the next financial quarter, how a released inmate will fare 10 years down the line is basically never going to be on the radar.

      Second, but not least important: focus has to switch away from punishment and revenge.

    • The problem is we treat adults like children.
      As people mature deterrents become less effective.
      If as a teenager you get ticketed for speeding over 10mph past the limit, then chances are you will not be speeding after that. If you didn't get caught and 5-10 year of maturity, you are still speeding 10mph past the limit and you finally get a ticket, you will not assume that you did anything wrong, but it was the police who was just being a jerk, and the City is just using this as an excuse to get extra revenu

      • That's a terrible analogy... have you ever actually met a teenager that DIDN'T get ticketed for more than 10 over?? And didn't proceed to immediately go right back to speeding?? It's great we now have aliens living among us, but your knowledge of Earth culture needs some work.. please don't vaporize me.
    • This AC pretty much covered it; isolating people in the violent and abnormal environment of a prison is just going to de-humanize them even more, cause them to deviate farther and farther from what we consider 'normal', and of course that sort of conditioning isn't going to rehabilitate anyone. The point of emprisonment for committing crimes may be punishment, but in the case of extended incarceration it needs to also be rehabilitation to turn these people's lives around so they're not resorting to crime ag
    • for the for profit prison industry. Stopping crime isn't their goal. Locking people up is. This is also why Marijuana will never be legalized so long as we have private prisons.
    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      So another reason why private prisons would want to reduce contact with families.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @11:27AM (#56608526) Homepage
    Healthcare, prisons, and education, should never be run for profit, as this amounts to an automatic restriction of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    Prisoners can fight back. Refuse to participate in any work release program. Refuse to participate in any prison line work program (laundry, kitchen, etc...) Making private prisons a losing financial proposition will force the state to implement prison reforms.
    • You know that prisoners can be forced to work, right?

      The Thirteenth Amendment has an exception for people being punished for a crime.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Easier said than done, but MAKE the prisons show their colors. Make them act like slavers so the public can see the ugliness of it.

        • Easier said than done, but MAKE the prisons show their colors. Make them act like slavers

          They are already acting like slavers. Make waves and they'll change your cellmate to someone who will blow out your O-Ring.

          so the public can see the ugliness of it.

          There is one and only one way that the public will give one tenth of one fuck about the ugliness of it, and that's if it happens to a famous beautiful person who somehow manages to stay beautiful through the process and then goes on to star in some piece of media about how bad it is.

          Maybe if we permit the #metoo movement to succeed (and even assist it as necessary) then we will work our

    • Hear, hear. For-profit prisons are about as dystopian as you can get, approaching the level of some Hell-dimension. Needs to be abolished.
    • I'd also like to say that I too have thought that the entire healthcare and pharmaceutical industry should be not-for-profit by law in the U.S., to prevent profiteering at the expense of peoples' continued existence. Take someone like the infamous 'Pharma-Bro' and make him pay $100 a gallon for drinking water and see if he gets the point.
  • You still have the right to an unmonitored attorney vist.

    • You still have the right to an unmonitored attorney vist.

      But what if your attorney is in a different cell block? Asking for a friend who happens to be a very stable genius with the best words.

    • They claim that when it's flagged as a legal visit, they disable monitoring and turn off recording. Nobody believes them. It's doubtful they do, especially when there's a perfect defense of 'Oh I forgot to flag it' that will always work.
      • Well I think the judge will take a very dim view of them trying to use anything from an legal visit in court against you. and IF not you must acquit!

    • You still have the right to an unmonitored attorney vist.

      Most people don't have a lawyer in the family. More's the pity, really; most ventures require one, and finding an honest one is the devil's own work.

  • In before ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @11:36AM (#56608582)

    In before the "they deserve hell on Earth because they were caught with a small amount of drugs or stole something worth $100" authoritarian crowd chimes in. Anyway, in-person human contact in a prison -- from jailers (not "correction officers") and other inmates is likely to be violent and abusive. Giving inmates the opportunity at loving contact with family, friends, and spouses (yes, conjugal should be allowed) makes them more likely to be sane upon being released. Removing all normal human contact makes psychological damage and violence more likely after release.

    I understand the need to save money. But money is best saved by non locking up non-violent drug offenders -- what adults put into their own bodies should be their own choice. Same with diverting petty thieves, the homeless, non-functional addicts, and the mentally ill to community service, shelters, and mental health therapy as appropriate.

    But hey. It's America. We'd rather punish than treat. Because Puritanism.

  • While the article seems to only focus on the negative -- heck, even the /. summary only states "There are a number of reasons jail administrators have gone this route," without explaining why, then goes on to state: "But critics say that money plays a big role. In-person visitation requires more staff supervision..."

    There are some huge reasons to limit outside visitation, not the least of which is contraband, such as cell phones, drugs and even weapons that are most often brought in by visitors.

    Are drugs al

    • Visitors passing items to prisoners isn't a major source of contraband. Any facility that allows actual contact strip searches upon return, so once you pass something, they have to swallow it and either puke it up or get it from the other end. Guards and civilian employees bring the vast majority.
      Also, they're doing this at facilities where there is no contact, visitors being separated by glass. So hardly about security there. Unlikely security is the primary concern elsewhere; the kickbacks will greatly
  • ... opens the door for casing the joint before grabbing all the shit.

    Think Equifax is porous?

  • by Seven Spirals ( 4924941 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @11:57AM (#56608768)
    Throughout history, the unjust jail and jail until the masses get tired of it and kill the jailers. It's not something you are going to hear in the media, it's just a fact. If you doubt me, look into the history of the Bastille and the Tower of London. Both have been the impetus of revolution. That's just a taste, too, since history is rife with such stories.
  • Profit center (Score:5, Informative)

    by ElizabethGreene ( 1185405 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @12:08PM (#56608832)

    The profit center piece of this should not be understated. Prisons extort significant amounts of money from prisoners' families for communications.

    In Tennessee, a 15 minute inmate phone call costs $2.40 for in-state long distance and $3.15 for out-of-state long distance. "Maybe these just haven't been updated in a long time?" No, these are the updated rates from 2017. Before that it was almost /double/ this.

    With that as prologue, why should we expect any less from video calls?

    • Re:Profit center (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Linsaran ( 728833 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @12:29PM (#56609018) Homepage
      It is, and continues to be ridiculous how expensive phone calls to prison are. For something that so clearly has a strong tie to improving prisoner behavior it should be encouraged and probably free.
      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        You do understand that they monitor those calls? Just so the gang leaders can't continue to run their empires from behind bars. Or the tweakers can't arrange the next delivery with their supplier. There is a cost associated with that.

    • And, from what I've heard from prisoners, the video quality stinks. Think bad webcam over dial-up connection bad. So you're paying a premium price for a video call when what you're getting only just barely qualifies as "a video call." Yes, they could easily use better equipment, but that'd cut into the profits and we can't have that!

  • We can ship them off to a secure site and still allow some 'face time' with family members. Best of both worlds.

  • They charge like $2/minute for video conferencing, whereas in-person visits are free. Yep, the for-profit incarceration industry just transformed family visits into a profit center!
  • by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @05:54PM (#56611196)
    The American prison system. The best tool that politicians have to manage job statistics is to increase prison population and to hire more guards.

    As we automate more jobs, it will become more and more important to decrease the unemployed through more creative methods. For nearly the past century, America has produced large numbers of jobs through fear, uncertainty and doubt. So long as the people of America are convince there is a necessity to do so, politicians have a more less carte blanc to produce jobs through FUD. Prisons are some of the best.

    To manage the job statistics, it is necessary to accomplish two primary things.
    1) Decrease the number of people eligible to be counted as unemployed.
    2) Increase the number of jobs for the remaining number of people.

    Here are some methods of decreasing the number of people counted as unemployed.
    1) Get the killed
    2) Imprison them.

    The military has been traditionally very lucrative in the sense that we can send massive numbers of children to their deaths before they have the opportunity to reproduce in a means that produces American citizens eligible to be counted as part of the employment statistics. Not only that, but if we can't get them killed, maybe we can get them boom boom in Europe or somewhere else where they can settle down and procreate on some other country's dime.

    Navy is far better than army, marines or air force since we can in a single stroke kill off hundreds or thousands of children, lose a ship and massive amounts of equipment and create tons of jobs in the name of national security to create more ships, planes, equipment, etc... as a replacement. The army and marines are a nightmare since you don't have any great direct profit from getting your children killed one by one unless they get blown up in a ground vehicle like a bus or tank which will need to be replaced.

    Prisons are a fantastic means of removing people from the employment statistics. If you send a person to prison, they are no longer counted as unemployed and the massive number of jobs created by sending them to prison is well worth it. All that matters is that you have to convince the American people they are safer paying to lock this person up and place them on extremely expensive welfare than to let them run lose and be in far less expensive welfare. This means however that we need to selectively choose people who we believe will be more profitable to the system as progressively hardening criminals as opposed to tax payers.

    For example, if you're a wealthy male in his prime, locking that person up for more than a year or two, even if they commit a mass murder is not profitable. It shouldn't be done.

    On the other hand, taking a kid from a family in the ghettos with two parents collecting welfare and generally low grades, unless you can get them to join the military as canon fodder, it's far more profitable to sentence him/her for 10 years for possession of a joint than to risk them simply collecting welfare or working a minimum wage job.

    A beautiful thing is that if you convince some sucker that he could be a hero by being canon fodder and they don't die, they can come back with PTSD and knock over a 7-Eleven, kill off some minimum wage worker leaving a job open for someone else and then go to super-max which is nothing but bank for the job statistics.

    See prisons are absolutely amazing because as long as the American people are scared of criminals and especially as long as we focus A LOT of effort on penalizing them as opposed to correcting them, we can increase the general temper of the American people allowing us to spend even more money on prisons and then even stress other areas of the economy causing more people to commit crimes, leave jobs open for others, be removed from the employment statistics and create jobs for others.

    Consider that prisoners require prisons.
    Prisons require guards.
    Prisons built in or near former coal towns tak

I've got a bad feeling about this.

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