The latest incarceration scam: Video-only visits…for a hefty fee, of course

inmate visitation room

inmate visitation room

The booming jail and prison industry has invented another way to fleece inmate families: eliminate in-person family visits all together, and replace them with video ‘visits’- for a fee. Jefferson County Jail in Missouri joins Washington DC Jail and others in a growing list of jails to deprive families of any face-to-face contact with their locked up loved one. The Jefferson County jail inked a contract with Dallas-based Securus Technologies to install the video system, at no cost to the jail…the families will pick up the tab for not being able to see their loved one in person.

The visits must be scheduled online in advance, and the jail will charge $6.99 for 25 minutes in an initial “introductory offer” period. After that, the rates will go up.

Instead, those who wish to visit with inmates at the jail in Jefferson County, Missouri, must do so by video. The online visits must be scheduled in advance, and they cost $6.99 for 25 minutes, an introductory fee that is expected to go up before the summer is over, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jail visitors in St. Clair County, Missouri, paid $20 for 20 minutes or $40 for 40 minutes, plus additional fees and taxes, the newspaper notes.

Those who come to the jail in person can participate in free video visits, but the inmate is limited to two per week. There is no limit to the number of paid remote video visits.

For one thing, a video ‘visit’ is not a substitute for a face-to-face, even when the in-person visit takes place across bullet proof glass. Also, what if the family is indigent? Many people do not have a computer, and likewise many people cannot afford the monthly recurring internet connection fee, or the requisite ‘video streaming’ upgrade. Many cannot afford the cost of the visit, and have no credit cards to set up an online account. Are these people expected to take an inmate’s children to the local public library to conduct a jail visit in full view of the passing public? It is likely that indigent families will be deprived of visits all together.

Add this to the list of incarceration straight-up gangster egregiousness where the name of the game is to extort money from hostage families. Naming a few practices off the top of my head, that list includes:

1. Jailhouse phone cards. The cost of telephone calls is astronomical. Even if (and that’s a big ‘if’) an inmate is lucky enough to have a job while in jail, the wage- at sixty-seven cents to one dollar per day- is insufficient to cover the cost of a single phone call. Phone time starts at dollar per minute and goes up from there, in addition a flat charge of something in the neighborhood of five dollars, even if the call reaches an answering machine.

2. Occupancy quotas.

3. Charging inmates a daily rate for their time in jail- and this applies to people who have not been convicted of anything.

4. Turning jails into prisons where state final-sentenced inmates are warehoused indefinitely in the county jails- and the county collects the money from the state- money that is supposed to be for housing state inmates in state penitentiaries, but not county jails.

5. Commissary. Jail and prison commissary prices are higher than God, and since the inmate does not make a meaningful wage, the burden of commissary purchases falls on the inmate families.

6. Captive labor, ie: “Sell Block”

7. Charging inmates ungodly fees for visits to the nurse, where the nurse does nothing. For example, charging an inmate $45.00 for a simple ice pack, or a single dose of Tylenol (I witnessed this personally.)


The Caging of America

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