by Alison Walsh, February 12, 2016
Spurred by our January 2015 report, Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails, the Federal Communications Commission requested further comment on the regulation of advanced communication services such as video visitation and electronic messaging (or “email in prisons”).
Building on our last series of comments to the FCC, in which we identified solutions to four unresolved issues in the prison phone industry, we recently submitted comments calling for oversight of video visitation and electronic messaging.
Our latest video visitation comments encourage facilities to employ video systems that charge users on a per-minute basis and do not require advanced scheduling. We also highlight examples of video visitation companies attempting to profit from contracts that mandate the elimination or restriction of in-person visitation, and point out the danger in allowing government officials to cede control over visitation policies to private companies. Demand for video services should be achieved through reasonable pricing and flexible scheduling, not at the expense of traditional in-person visitation.
Our new report, You’ve Got Mail: The promise of cyber communication in prisons and the need for regulation, documents the benefits and drawbacks of electronic messaging in correctional facilities. And our comments on this topic affirm the FCC’s jurisdiction over electronic messaging, arguing that this emerging technology warrants FCC protection.
We recommend that the FCC put these safeguards in place to ensure that these new technologies facilitate communication rather than take advantage of people with no other options.