It's a widely known fact that America houses the vast majority of the world's incarcerated population– and simply put, it's because for-profit jails and businesses are racking it up, getting rained in billions of dollars and inhumanely cashing in.
As of 2017, America holds 21% of the world's inmates in its jails, giving it the number one spot for imprisoning its population– meanwhile, the country grossly falls lower and lower in its ranks for quality of education, making innovations in science and math or environmental advancements.
Unfortunately, jailing citizens and cramming them into bunks like sardines has been commonplace since the 1980s, when widespread privatization took place. Since then, the plight of incarcerated peoples has only become more complicated.
As the years progress, more stipulations have been put in place that make getting consumed in the prison industrial complex so much harder. We see this sentiment once again, when last year, prisons across the country began opting to end face-to-face prison visitations in exchange for video calls between inmates and loved ones.
New Orleans resident Tiffany Burns explains to the Guardian after visiting her boyfriend in a state prison in October of 2017, she was handed a pamphlet by a guard and told. He bluntly told her, “From now on, no more visits. If you want to see him, read that.”The pamphlet, dispersed by Securus Technology, said:
“Do you want to see your loved one more often? Stop missing out on:
• Watching your favorite TV show.
• Singing Happy Birthday.
• Reading a bedtime story ... Never miss another moment.”
The brochure attempts to make the use of video calling somehow sound positive or appealing, but for anyone with sense, empathy or a heart, we know what this is. With this new system in place, each video video call would cost $12.99 for 20 minutes. In-person visits used to be free.
As someone who has incarcerated family and has seen the disparities of the justice system firsthand, this shakes me. The well-being of people, their sanity and their family's sanity is being monetized only to grease the palms of well-to-do men and women who know them as no more than a number on a screen.
Video calling systems have already replaced face-to-face visitations in prisons in New Orleans, Louisiana, California, Washington D.C. and beyond. As video visitations increase, face-to-face visitations decline– which only makes sense, since many of the private companies that provide video visitation services to prisons require governments to drop in-person visits as an option.
The bottomline of this issue is clear: Video visiting is big business for prison phone companies and privatized prisons, but it is heinously expensive, often doesn't even work or give callers a clear connection to speak to their loved ones and is 100% indisputably inhumane. We need to do better.