US Prisons Use Expensive Video Call Services To Replace In-Person Visits

Anita - Apr 17, 2019

US Prisons Use Expensive Video Call Services To Replace In-Person Visits

More prisons are applying visitation via video calls with the high cost and bad quality instead of in-person visits like before.

In many US prisons, video call services are now chosen to replace face-to-face visitation.

According to reports of Ars Technica, family and friends of prisoners can chat with them through an outdated and grainy video feed instead of going to prison. Each video call will be paid by the minute. Prisons don't just aim at the convenience of this service but they also want to focus on isolating prisoners more efficiently.


Timothy Lee, a reporter at Ars, tested one of video call services by chatting with a prisoner at Knox County Jail, Tennessee. To make any video call, users will have to pay 19 ¢/minute. However, the quality of such video calls was reportedly extremely bad, compared to any normal free video call services.

Allowing prisoners' family to make video calls instead of in-person visits seems to help the prison system in the US make easy money. In New County, Missouri, you need to pay 40¢ for each minute on a video call. Even some prisons charge more.


With this change, the prisoners at some prisons will not be able to see their loved people directly until the sentence is over. Also, the claims that video calls are similar to in-person visitation are wrong, said prisoner Justin Harker to Ars during the video call.

“It’s not the same,” said he.

So why do many US prisons apply video call services? A big driving force is a financial problem. Face-to-face visits need a number of jail guards to escort prisoners to and from the visitation rooms, as well as monitor the visits. On the other hands, video terminals are able to be set up inside each jail, which minimizes the need to move prisoners.

Video call services also bring revenue for US prisons. The video call providers set up video terminals inside the jails for free for the prisons, charge high calling fees to those who want to chat with the inmates, and share a large amount of the fee proceedings to the prisons.


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