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.