Prison Families & Loved Ones Prison Kids Prison Visits & Issues

Replacing In-Person Prison Visits with Video Calls: Violation of Inmates’ Legal Rights?

Several state prisons across the US are replacing in-person prison visits with video conferencing only. Now, people are questioning the legality of it. Is this a violation of the prisoners’ legal rights.

The question is whether forcing prison inmates to use video calls as means of prison visits, which is expensive to their prison loved ones, is a violation of the inmates’ human and legal rights.

Camp Grace brought kids together with the fathers in prison they've never met in person for 5 whole days. Moments like these can never happen for prison kids without in-person visits.
Camp Grace brought kids together with the fathers in prison they’ve never met in person for 5 whole days. Moments like these can never happen for prison kids without in-person visits. Image Source: The Californian

The Costs of Replacing In-Person Prison Visits with Video Calls

Some prison systems are completely replacing in-prison prison visits with video conferencing calls. But the costs of prison video calls are enormous. And it’s generally their prison loved ones who have to foot these bills.

Using a smartphone or computer system to communicate with a prison inmate via video conferencing costs $12.99 for 20 minutes. This is a huge financial strain on the families of incarcerated persons. Yet its a gain to both the government and contractors operating prison calls, such as Securus.

It is estimated that state governments and prison owners and systems earn about 20% commission per call. This however raises the question of legality where inmates and their families are forced to pay to communicate via video technology.

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It's not just about the inmates' rights. Children NEED to be able to visit their parents in prisons.
It’s not just about the inmates’ rights. Children NEED to be able to visit their parents in prisons.

Advocates Say: Replacing Personal Visits with Video Calls Is a Violation of Personal Rights

Truth is most families with loved ones in prisons face the hurdles of traveling long distances to visit prison facilities. Many simply cannot pay $13 per call to communicate with an inmate, especially not for just 20 minutes.

Banning personal visits to inmates is not only a wicked development to these families, it is also a violation of inmates’ rights, according to both the American Bar Association and American Correctional Association.

Both group argue that forcing inmates to chat via video is considered a violation of their legal rights and a dehumanizes them.

According to Norris Henderson, the founder of Voice of the Ex-offender:

“We should be moving toward more human contact and people connecting with other people, not less. When you move away from that, it is easy to dehumanize.”

Henderson spent 28 years in prison for murder.

Voice of the Ex-Offender Tells Released Inmates. 'You Can Vote!'
Voice of the Ex-Offender Tells Released Inmates. ‘You Can Vote!’ Image Source: CSPAN

Prison advocates and prison loved ones all agree that disallowing personal visits to inmates can cause emotional and psychological havoc on them as human beings.

Replacing in-personal visits with communication through 6-inch glass barrier or a video screen is means limiting the amount of support that can be provided from the outside.

This will surely add to recidivism, which fuels mass incarceration.

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Commenter Says Prison Visits Are a Privilege… Not a Right

A commenter on wccftech disagrees that video calls are a violation of prisoners’ rights.

“Prison visits should be a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT. If you broke a law that’s bad enough to warrant jail time, it’s bad enough my tax dollars are footing your guarantees to healthcare, access to education (more people in Oklahoma alone graduated college in jail than out of jail), health centers, etc. You should not be guaranteed ‘visits’.”

Eliminating In-Person Prison Visits: What About the Kids?

Prison loved ones and prison advocates completely disagree with the commenter. When I asked PRN Chief Editor Kiesha Joseph what she thinks about the comment, she replied:

“It’s not just about the rights of the inmates. You have to look at the overall effect this will have on prison families, especially the children of incarcerated parents.

It’s thinking like this that fuels the fire behind the school-to-prison pipeline. And, it’s thinking like this that leads advocates to call prison kids the forgotten victims of crime.”

Charles Omedo has a degree in Mass Communication and a PGD in Digital Communication. He worked as a newspaper/magazine reporter and editor for many years. Now, he writes daily news articles for private clients. Charles has written for US/UK/Canadian/Indian clients on various niches. He currently writes prison news for loved ones of inmates on the Prison Rideshare Network.

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Charles Omedo
Charles Omedo has a degree in Mass Communication and a PGD in Digital Communication. He worked as a newspaper/magazine reporter and editor for many years. Now, he writes daily news articles for private clients. Charles has written for US/UK/Canadian/Indian clients on various niches. He currently writes prison news for loved ones of inmates on the Prison Rideshare Network.
https://prisonrideshare.org/nonprofit/