Multnomah County Sheriff reverses ban on in-person visits in Portland jails!

by Bernadette Rabuy, January 29, 2015

Yesterday we received some very exciting news! Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton is reversing the ban on in-person visits in Portland jails and announced that families will now have the opportunity to visit incarcerated loved ones via video or in-person.

This is a tremendous victory that was made possible by powerful and consistent investigative reporting done by Street Roots — which first broke the story about video visitation in Portland earlier this month — as well as pressure from the public and county legislators who asked the sheriff to reconsider the elimination of in-person visits.

As we explain in our new report, Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails, families have been extremely unhappy when video visits are implemented to take away traditional visits. Unfortunately, some of the biggest companies in the industry like Securus claim that they must ban in-person visits in order to be profitable. In our report, we found that another company TurnKey Corrections has actually had the opposite experience: if facilities give families more visitation options, they will be more likely to use the paid, remote video visits. Preserving in-person visits can be better for not only incarcerated people and their families, but also for facilities and companies.

The Portland victory is so important because:

  • Multnomah County is amending a contract it had already signed with Securus that explicitly banned in-person visits. According to the sheriff’s press release, “The contract amendment has been verbally agreed to and will be completed by the end of the week.” Apparently, correctional facilities can bring back in-person visits if they really want to.
  • Just like we saw in Dallas County, we have further proof that if the public is activated, we can protect families by beating back harmful visitation policies!

Hopefully, the following Oregon counties will follow Multnomah County’s lead and reverse their bans on in-person visits:

  • Clackamas County
  • Deschutes County
  • Josephine County
  • Lincoln County
  • Northern Oregon Regional Correctional (NORCOR) Facility (serves Gilliam, Hood River, Sherman, and Wasco counties)

Other facilities that have Securus video visitation should also take note and reconsider whether restricting traditional visits is necessary or, rather, unnecessarily punitive.

4 Responses

  1. New videos: Video visitation is not “just like Skype” | Prison Policy Initiative says, 2 weeks, 5 days after publication:

    […] for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails. Despite exciting press coverage and a victory in Portland, Oregon, where that sheriff agreed to bring back in-person visits, county jails and private companies are […]

  2. sandra says, 1 month, 1 week after publication:

    I think it is phenomenal thing that Oregon is re-allowing for in-person visits. These in person visits are often essential to some prisoners as well. For those with a shorter sentencing, it helps remind them that they do have a life outside of these walls and something/someone to go home to. It helps reduce the effects of institutionalization by allowing them to come to terms with the fact that they did have a life before prison and that the world out there still exists. The interaction with their visitors allow the prisoners just a split-second amount of time away from their life on the inside: a break. But aside from that, the video-chats are just as influential. It allows for people who want to visit their loved ones but live too far, to be able to have that interaction. In addition, which may even be somewhat more important, if the prisoners victim would like to confront them, they may do so over video-chat in order to allow them to feel safer rather than if they were to go see them in person. It allows them to have that contact without feeling threatened, which is extremely important. Some victims want to confront their attacker, but do not want to feel unsafe doing so, and this video chat allows for that.However, it is outrageous that they put money up to a higher standard than what is best. There is so much capital flowing into the criminal justice system it is absolutely ridiculous. So rather than focusing on how much profit they might make one way or another, focus on what the prisoners/visitors would prefer.

  3. Securus ends its ban on in-person visits, shifts responsibility to sheriffs | Prison Policy Initiative says, 3 months, 1 week after publication:

    […] visitation policy in the contract. This clause has been controversial. After public protest, the Portland, Oregon Sheriff was the first to successfully amend an existing Securus video visitation contract, and in Dallas County, Texas county legislators were […]

  4. A year of propelling the criminal justice reform movement forward | Prison Policy Initiative says, 7 months, 3 weeks after publication:

    […] We launched the national movement to protect family visits from the exploitative video visitation industry and have already won victories protecting in-person family visits in Dallas County, Texas and Portland, Oregon. […]

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