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Jails are replacing visits with video calls

Time: 2019-10-16

In recent years, more and more jails have introduced video-calling services. Theoretically, these products could make it easier for inmates to maintain their relationships with family and friends outside. But many jails have moved in the opposite direction, using the advent of these "video visitation" services as an excuse to restrict or eliminate traditional in-person visits.

The in-person visits were a strain on staff, the jail population has been increasing largely due to drug use. Officials were also concerned about contraband being smuggled into the jail.

Mainstream video-calling services like Skype and FaceTime are free, of course, but they're rarely available to inmates. One reason that the video-calling services in jails cost money is that the companies providing the software also typically provide hardware, which are generally locked-down touchscreen kiosks. By contracting these services out, jails avoid the costs of acquiring, installing, and maintaining the hardware themselves.