Letter to the Editor: Punishing and taxing
In what is usually the worst day of someone’s life, when they find themselves behind bars, only a family member or close friend coming to visit can provide solace. That practice is scheduled to come to an end for Routt County residents.
The Routt County Correctional Institute distributed fliers over the weekend alerting all inmates that family and friends will no longer be able to visit them in person. The Routt County Correctional Institute often serves as a holding place for those awaiting their day in court.
With the new deal signed with prison profit giant Securus, in order to communicate with someone in jail you now have to pay. The ability to visit in person, through a plexiglass wall and free to the public, is set to be closed on July 6. While the costs haven’t been set in stone yet, many jails using this new system are charging up to $30 per video call.
In 2014, Securus suffered a major blow to their profits from the FCC, which made it illegal to charge more than 25 cents per minute for phone calls. In order to get around this ruling, Securus, along with other prison corporations like Global Tel*Link, have signed contracts around the country with jails to install cameras and monitors in every cell and charge outrageous rates for video-only visitation. Securus has already faced backlash in Texas and other states with regard to their contracts implying all free, in-person visits must be cancelled in order to use their system.
The ability to make Skype-like calls with loved ones in jail is a step forward to a better system of justice of detention. That step forward has come with a tremendous step backwards with the cancellation of face-to-face visitation.
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The American Bar Association said the following: “Correctional officials should develop and promote other forms of communication between prisoners and their families, including video visitation, provided that such options are not a replacement for opportunities for in-person contact.”
Apart from the ethical questions regarding punishing those who are innocent by restricting face-to-face visitation for pre-trial detainees, there is a good reason why the ABA wants to continue to allow in person visitation. A rigorous study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections found that even a single visit reduced recidivism by 13-percent for new crimes and 25-percent for technical violations.
Do the citizens of Routt County really want an outside corporation profiting from grieving families while endangering the safety of its citizens? With all due respect for the many great people who work for the sheriff’s office and the Routt County Correctional Facility, removing the millennia old system of face-to-face visits is a mistake, and the families and citizens of Routt County will be the ones to pay the price.
Ibid., quoting Rhem v. Malcolm, 507 F.2d at 336. Under the Court of Appeals’ “compelling necessity” standard, “deprivation of the rights of detainees cannot be justified by the cries of fiscal necessity, . . . administrative convenience, . . . or by the cold comfort that conditions in other jails are worse.”
Please contact your local representatives and ensure that in-person visitation for Routt County residents stays intact.
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The Longevity Project event, sponsored by Steamboat Pilot & Today, has shifted from in-person to virtual. The keynote speaker Kevin Hines contracted COVID-19, and he will now be presenting his talk remotely.