Tucked inside California’s $125 billion state budget proposal is a provision of great interest to the state’s 130,000 prisoners and their families: a measure to stop jails from ending in-person visits for their inmates in favor of video visitation.
In California and across the U.S., detention facilities have been replacing in-person and through-the-glass visits with Skype-like services run by prison technology corporations such as Global Tel Link and Securus. Sheriffs say the move is about safety, but the calls, which can cost families as much as $1 per minute, are part of a $1.3 billion prison communications industry that pays healthy fees back to the jails themselves in exchange for exclusive contracts. The Prison Policy Initiative estimates 600 facilities in 46 states have implemented video visitation and 74 percent of jails that implement the technology eliminate in-person visits.
Inmate advocates are hopeful but not certain that California Governor Jerry Brown will sign the deal as is — he has vetoed efforts to curb the practice in the past. VICE News went to Solano County, California, where some inmates can see their loved ones in person and some can’t.
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