A new technology being used by prisons across the U.S. is devastating families.
These jails are attempting to save money by eliminating in person visitation with inmates, and replacing these visits with video conferences and messaging platforms like Skype. This means poor families are paying money that they don’t have, just to see their incarcerated loved ones through an app.
— Daisy Vieyra (@VieyraDaisy) September 27, 2016
The Prison Policy Initiative estimates that 600 facilities in 46 states have implemented video visitation and 74 percent of jails that implement the technology eliminate in-person visits.
Technology corporations such as Global Tel Link and Securus are pushing this video conferencing as a method of safety for jails but they are really interested in making money by paying jails to have exclusive contracts with them that force families to pay $1 a minute for calls.
There are many reasons that this is terrible for inmates and their families.
1/3 of families go into debt because of the costs of these communications.
These video conferences are bad for prison morale because for many inmates, seeing and interacting with their loved ones is healing for their psyche. If inmates are unable to feel some aspect of normalcy in their lives, their morale will be destroyed and lead to them losing hope. It is known that when inmates aren’t encouraged to keep going with their lives during prison, they are likely to commit crimes in prison that will lengthen their sentence and hurt their rehabilitation efforts.
Supporters of this technology argue that this method not only cuts costs and paperwork, but it also reduces the risk of contraband allowed into the prison. However, this reasoning is widely debated.
When you consider the fact that these prisons are denying a basic human right, it is impossible not to be upset about it.
This technology is proving to be very one sided, as it does nothing to improve prisoner’s quality of life; it only serves to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It screams Jeff Sessions all over it because people like him aim to work to keep poor people incarcerated.
Even if you think this doesn’t directly apply to you, it does, and you should still care. Everyone in the U.S. has been affected by the criminal justice system in some fashion and that is why this issue affects everyone.
People are more than just numbers, they have people who love them no matter what law they have broken. Depriving them of contact with their loved ones is immoral and cruel.
— The Marshall Project (@MarshallProj) July 8, 2017
With a criminal justice system that disproportionately attacks and imprisons people of color, it’s clear who this new technology is targeting.
By having poor people going into debt to keep in contact with family members who are encouraged to keep going in and out of the system, these tech companies are getting steady revenue. That is what this technology is truly about: the numbers, not about helping anyone.
Fortunately, California Governor Jerry Brown is fighting against the implication of this technology in California prisons. We are hoping that other lawmakers follow suit and expose this technology for what it really is: a scheme to launder money from poor communities.