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Senator Tammy Duckworth introduces the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017

by Lucius Couloute, July 24, 2017

Last week Senator Tammy Duckworth introduced the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017. This piece of legislation is an important step in the fight against exploitation in prisons and jails, and we encourage lawmakers, criminal justice professionals, and the general public to support its passing.

Although purportedly designed to help people communicate with incarcerated loved ones, video calling technology has typically been used in correctional facilities to replace – not supplement – in-person visits. In fact, 74% of jails banned in-person visits when they implemented video visitation, preventing incarcerated people from maintaining important ties with their loved ones.

The Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017 would require the FCC to regulate the use of video visitation and inmate calling services in correctional facilities (which it has moved away from under the new Chairman); protecting incarcerated people from the elimination of in-person visits, the high costs of calling services, and substandard video calling technologies.

Earlier this year, the Prison Policy Initiative, along with a coalition of concerned organizations, came together to support a previous version of this bill. With the number of facilities switching to video-only visits growing quickly, regulating the exploitive video visitation industry has become an urgent concern.

For incarcerated people who rely upon the support of loved ones, and for the millions of children who need to connect with their parents behind bars, it is crucial that we continue to support common-sense legislation like the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017.

3 Responses

  1. Mary Ann Kennedy says, 1 day, 23 hours after publication:

    Although video visitation is ok what about the wives and children that need to hug or give their loved one a touch or a kiss don’t take this away from the families that need it…Children need a touch from their loved one…..

    1. Lucius Couloute says, 2 days, 2 hours after publication:

      Hi Mary Ann,

      Thank you for your comment and concern. We agree with your take on visitation. Families need meaningful connection when someone goes through a period of incarceration. We advocate for video visitation technology to be used as a supplement – not a replacement – to in-person visits.

  2. Donna says, 6 days, 8 hours after publication:

    THANK YOU. Having communication with my son has been the up most important as a family we process the next 3-4 years. For a family that makes just around $40,000 a year we have had to let go of even the simplest of luxeries so that my son has money to call. I believe having voice communication and beng able to see each other is a cataylist for success. The cynical part of me says the system has created yet another barrier to break those incarcerated down even more so that they become angry and the process is likely to repeat itself. You know the rolling state revenue.

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