A report is quoted by an anonymous reader by Ars Technica: After April 15, inmates at the Adult Detention Center in Lowndes County, Mississippi will no longer be permitted to visit with relatives face to face. Missouri, newton County, implemented an on site visitor ban. Visits were phased out by the Allen County Jail in Indiana this season. All three modifications are a part of a nationwide trend toward”video visitation” services. Rather than seeing their loved ones face to face, inmates are increasingly limited to speaking through video terminals to them. Jails provide family members a choice between paying penalties to make calls from home with a PC or mobile device — or using video terminals at the jail — that are free.

Some advocates of this shift acknowledge that it has disadvantages for inmates and their families. Ryan Rickert, prison secretary at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center, acknowledged to The Commercial Dispatch that inmates were frustrated that they would not get to visit family members. Advocates of this approach point to an upside for families: they can now make video calls to loved ones rather than having to physically travel to the prison from home. These services are ludicrously expensive. Video calls cost 40 cents per minute in Newton County, 50 cents per second at Lowndes County, and $10 per call at Allen County. Outside of prison, of course, video calls on Skype or FaceTime are liberated. These”visitation” providers tend to be”grainy and jerky, occasionally freezing up entirely,” reports Ars. In terms of why they are being adopted by so many jails, it’s a lot to do with cash. “In-person visits are labour intensive. For contraband tap down visitors in some cases, supervise the visits, and prison guards will need to escort inmates to and from visitation rooms. By comparison, video terminals could be set up inside each cell block, minimizing the need to move inmates round the jail.” The video-visitation systems directly generate revenue for jails.

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