San Luis Obispo County Jail is implementing a new video streaming system for inmates to speak with family, friends, and lawyers without personal visitations. The experience is similar to skype but there is a fee involved in using it. Part of the reason for this is that the service has overhead for the correctional facilities and vendor companies. In addition to the overhead, many county correctional use a commission fee on the service as a way to help fund prisons which they claim have funding issues for years that this will alleviate.
The current pricing model for visitation is as follows: on-site visitation is free while the new video visitation is $15 for 20 minutes and $30 for 40 minutes. There had been a discussion of creating a monthly subscription model, but for the initial launch, it will be on a per minute basis. The vendor selected to implement the system was Global Tel-Link which will maintain not only the website portal for arranging calls but also the systems themselves.
Access to the system is fairly straight forward where users will register on the Global Tele-Link (GTL) website. From there they register a username, provide personal and financial information, and then generate a password for security. There is no fee for registration or logging in and the website service can be used to schedule on-site visits as well as video communication. The video communication is achieved via desktop, laptop, or tablets equipped with a camera and audio input device. All video feeds are routed through a monitoring counsel for security reasons.
The movement of people around the world in the 21st century has had a surprising effect on the prison industry, which can be seen in the jail at Veenhuizen in The Netherlands where Norway’s government has recently been sending prison inmates. The approach taken to prison terms differs between the two neighboring nations as the cells of Norway are overflowing, while at the same time those in The Netherlands remain only two thirds full, according to DW.com.
The 240 inmates at Veenhuizen live and work on the site in an institution that offers many of the modern amenities seen in European jails; inmates enjoy large green spaces around the prison and the latest in modern technology that allows them the chance to Skype family members in Norway. Technology is not the only upgrade the prison has seen; a nearby factory provides work for inmates each morning and is followed by a range of sports, library and other activities to be undertaken each afternoon and evening.
The progressive approach to the time inmates spend in prison is seen in both Norway and The Netherlands, which includes the chance to become better prepared for life once their prison term is over. The benefits of renting out the Dutch jail to Norwegian authorities can be seen in the local community where high unemployment has been lowered with around 240 staff members from The Netherlands working at the jail.
One of the largest issues in America is the rate of incarceration. Our public and private prison systems are bursting at the seams. The word corruption is thrown around in both the public and private sector often in reference to the bottom line and lining pockets. However, there is light on the horizon with laws and the legislature slowly coming from the over population of the nation’s prison system.
Treatment Industrial Complex is rising up against larger private prison companies and opening facilities that focus more on mental health and addiction problems than incarceration. They are chasing prisoner reform not the bottom line. But accusations are flying their direction, also. Seemingly, everyone wishes to profit off of the incarcerated, even those that seem like they have the prisoners’ needs at heart.
Grassroots Leadership has always stood up against the unjust and in the case, it is no different. While pointing out the obvious differences between Treatment Industrial Complex and larger private prisons, they continue to express their concern over loopholes that keep prisoners longer than intended. All of the reform legistature in the world could be passed and unless there are constraints on how a prison can profit, these leaks will continue while men and women remain locked up and prisons make money on their mistakes.
The heavy and wide footprint of the FCC is causing economic concerns for counties throughout the state of Indiana. In particular, Boone County is opposing new FCC limits on expenses for inmates to contact their family and friends.
Boone County only has a population of 57,000, and it’s municipal jail budgets are extremely tight. These new FCC regulations could reduce revenues to the county law enforcement system in the amount of $20,000 annually. These losses will affect local GED and D.A.R.E. programs.
Boone county jails charge a general inmate connection fee of $3.95, and other fees ranging from $.25 to $1.00 per minute for out-of-county connections and international calls. New FCC regulations, based on the outcomes of recent judicial rulings, will have to lower the connection fees, and closely regulate per minute inmate phone usage charges. These changes are due to reports of uncontrolled and exorbitant fees reported to exceed $14 per minute in some cases. Inmate advocates site the financial pressure of having a family member imprisoned as the prime need for a governmentally-imposed rate reduction.
Annual commissary funds generated by inmate calls in Boone county total nearly $73,000. With sweeping new legislation, that amount will likely be reduced by as much as 22 percent. This drop will cause the Boone County Sheriff’s office to ask for a boost in appropriations from their own county legislative body.
This FCC ruling will affect the entire Indiana Department of Corrections. Their budget tops $750,000 in commissary funds, which is vital to more than 82 social and community programs.
A petition has been filed by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association in the Federal Court of Appeals to stay the FCC ruling. Their claim is based on evidence that the FCC failed to consider the loss in funding for important programs that would result from an inmate phone service fee cap. Because of the FCC mandates, some jails in Indiana are considering removing phones from jails altogether.