Securus ends its ban on in-person visits, shifts responsibility to sheriffs

May 6, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6, 2015

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
(413) 527-0845

Easthampton, MA — On Monday, Securus, the video visitation industry leader, announced that it will no longer explicitly require county jails and state prisons to replace traditional family visits with video visits. Securus CEO Richard A. Smith stated that the billion-dollar phone and video visitation company “found that in ‘a handful’ of cases,” Securus was including a clause that “could be perceived as restricting onsite and/or person-to-person contact.”

But Securus’s new policy is much more significant than Securus’s announcement implies, says Bernadette Rabuy of the Prison Policy Initiative. “There is clear language banning in-person visits in 70% of the Securus contracts we examined for our report, Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails.” The contracts plainly read: “For non-professional visitors, Customer will eliminate all face to face visitation through glass or otherwise at the Facility.”

This offensive clause was brilliantly challenged by comedians Ted Alexandro and Ben Rosen, arguing about whether video visitation lives up to the industry’s claims that it’s “just like Skype:”

While many of Securus’s competitors have worked with sheriffs to replace in-person visits with video visits, Securus was the only video visitation company that dictated correctional 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 able to eliminate the clause before signing a contract with Securus.

Video visitation is a promising technology that could make it easier and more affordable for families to stay in touch despite the challenges of incarceration. But as it is too often implemented, going high-tech has been a step in the wrong direction.

“This announcement won’t necessarily bring back in-person visitation,” said the Prison Policy Initiative’s Bernadette Rabuy. “Traditionally, video visitation companies and sheriffs have played the blame game, neither has been willing to take responsibility for banning in-person visits. Now that Securus is shifting moral responsibility to the sheriffs, the Prison Policy Initiative will be working with concerned families across the country to ensure that sheriffs reverse these draconian policies.”

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4 Responses

  1. Securus shifts responsibility for in-person visits to sheriffs (Prison Policy Blog) | Revolving Door says, 22 hours, 48 minutes after publication:

    […] Securus ends its ban on in-person visits, shifts responsibility to sheriffs to the Prison Policy […]

  2. Sonni Quick says, 2 weeks, 4 days after publication:

    If family is far away, such as I am, being about to have video chat is great, but it would eliminate my grandson, who is only a few hours from the prison from being able to see his father. Trying to put this process in place is an attempt to save money because you wouldn’t need the staff to oversee the visits. Hasn’t enough been done to the inmates? Isn’t the prison industrial complex making enough money of the inmates already?

  3. Astrid Berkson says, 2 months, 2 weeks after publication:

    Babies and young children cannot bond with a video image. Their bonding senses are touch and smell (consider the relation to a loved blanket or stuffed animal) and when you deny these you destroy the bond between mother and child. The negative long term consequences are well documented and cannot really be undone.

  4. Casting call: Protect the FCC’s regulation of the prison and jail telephone industry | Prison Policy Initiative says, 5 months, 1 week after publication:

    […] comedians produced a series of videos that successfully shamed the video visitation industry into dropping its ban on in-person visits. We think we can convince the public of the harm that will come from re-electing sheriffs who want […]

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