Prison and jail video visitation providers are under fire for their price-gouging video chats. Reports reveal that video visits that the inmates pay for have several adverse effects and hidden agendas.
- Often lead to repeal of in-person visits altogether
- Enrich profit-oriented vendors like prison phone companies
- Make life easier for those running the local jails
In fact, the Prison Policy Initiative’s 2015 study found that 74% of jails adopting price-gouging video chats banned in-person visits. This is something prison loved across the country worry about these days.
Disadvantages of Replacing In-Person Visits with Video Chats
Replacing in person visits deny the inmates the opportunity to interact their families face to face. It also exposes the families to unnecessary costs that they often can’t afford.
Vera Institute of Justice recently did a study on the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC). The research found that very few people used the price-gouging video chats since their introduction in 2013.
- Poor quality calls
- The high charge rate of $12.95 for a 30-minute connection
The findings say that video visitation could reduce recidivism among American prisons. However, this isn’t the motive behind corporate and government implementations of these systems. They are driven by their greed for money, and that’s all there is to it.
Advantages of Video Visitations
This team then analyzed the in-person and video visitation records of 9,217 inmates. The number included those incarcerated before and after the introduction of video visits.
The researchers then divided that group into three groups:
- Low users
- Regular users
- High users
The result was:
- The regular video callers saw a 40% rise in in-person visits compared to the year before
- Very high users experienced a 49% increase in in-person visits compared to the year before
The video service also cut the distance gap for some inmates, enabling those who hadn’t been visited at all to get some form of jail and prison visits.
For example, there was an inmate who hadn’t seen his family in 19-years. But he now had a chance to visit via video chat.
When they researched why some inmates did not make video calls, the BOJ found that:
- The video had a crappy quality
- Price-Gouging video chats cost way too much
Multiple Video Visitation Services Providers Accused of Price-Gouging
JPay isn’t the only video service provider accused of the price-gouging. Securus, a profit-oriented prison tech company is also in the spotlight. In fact, it has faced multiple lawsuits regarding its video visitation operations.
Lucius Couloute, a Prison Policy Initiative researcher, said prisons and jails often earn commission from each and every call. This has prompted sheriffs to also shift to video streaming. For instance, Washington DOC usually receives $3 from every call.
The ironic part is that these charges contribute to inmate betterment fund, so officials claim. But, let’s not forget how these fees limit the detainees’ abilities to use video tools, intended to better their lives.
Leon Digard, a coauthor of Vera study, argues these video visitation systems could have much more positive impacts, if only they were dealt with more responsibly. He says that the contracts that these facilities seal with these private companies are the cause of the problem.
Digard, therefore, advocates for the improvement of these contracts to safeguard the inmates’ interests.
Alternatives to Price-Gouging Video Chats
These findings also present great opportunities for technology companies like Google. According to experts, Google is ideal, and it has recently shown an interest in criminal justice reforms.
Google Hangouts and FaceTime are specifically great options given that both:
- Have little, communication breakdown, unlike, price-gouging video chats
- Cost a half of what price-gouging video chats cost