Arizona mother Cathy Seymour’s 16-year-old son was arrested in August 2013 for allegedly shooting a detention officer to death and was charged with first-degree murder as an adult and held in a jail.
Now she uses her laptop and a video link to spring him from maximum security detention in the 4th Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix, take him on a virtual tour of some of his favorite places and visit with family and friends.
“If there’s Wi-Fi and you have a laptop, you don’t have to stay in your home,” she says of the recently installed pay-per-view system that links a video terminal in the jail to her laptop at a cost of $5 for 20 minutes.
“His favorite spot is McDonald’s, so we went to McDonald’s … I’ll show him, like, the street … He gets to see other people … He gets to see my mom and dad and church,” said Seymour, who spoke to Al Jazeera America on the condition that her son not be named.
She is among thousands of family members nationwide using pay-per-view video chats to connect with loved ones who are incarcerated. The technology is gaining traction in jail systems across the U.S. in a push by the for-profit prison industry to monetize inmate contact.
At the end of 2014, 388 U.S. jails — about 1 in 8 — offered pay-per-view video visits, and the service was also available in 123 prisons, according to a study by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative (PPI).
Since the report was published in January, the PPI has become aware of at least 25 additional jails that have implemented the technology. Once video visitation systems are in place, most jails eliminate in-person family visits, securing a captive market for private firms. Seven companies dominate the market, and for 20 minutes, they charge from $5 in Maricopa County, Arizona, to $29.95 in Racine County, Wisconsin…
For Seymour, the pay-per-view video visits help her maintain a relationship with her teenage son, with whom she shares as many as four video chats a day. “He’s in an ugly place now … I don’t agree with the sheriff on much, but there is benefit to it,” she said of the system…
The boom in for-profit video visitation is also transforming the way lawyers work with their clients. Some criminal defense attorneys, like Marci Kratter in Phoenix, find much to like.
Before the system went live in November, Kratter had to drive to a jail, park, sign in and go to a visitation area to wait for her client in what she described as an “at least a two-hour ordeal.” Now with video visitation, “it’s 20 minutes. You do it from your desk … As far as rapport building goes and trust, when you can check in with [your clients] every week, they know you’re thinking about them.”
RTFA. Many variations on the theme – as you would expect. A predictable number of jailers are more interested in vacuuming every last greenback from the wallets of relatives, friends, lawyers. Some are more interested in security. You ain’t smuggling in smack or a cell phone over an internet connection.
There is a lawsuit started by defense attorneys in Travis County against Securus, the sheriff’s office and other county officials. It charges that video visits were used to illegally record attorneys’ confidential calls with their clients…using the info gained against clients and other prisoners. I’d be shocked, shocked I tell you – if something like that actually happened.
Y’all know how deeply we trust law enforcement in America. Right?
The escape of three convicts from a prison in Arizona last week has become an issue in the state’s campaign for governor.
Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democratic candidate, is accusing incumbent Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of increasing the risk of jailbreaks by favoring for-profit prisons over state-run prisons.
“The Brewer administration has consistently promoted private over public prisons, in spite of the public safety risk,” he said. “The escape of these two violent offenders makes it clear how dangerous this policy has been.”
Goddard is calling for a moratorium on putting violent criminals in for-profit facilities. “They’re going to cut costs wherever they can,” he told CNN Tuesday, “putting public safety at risk…”
The three inmates — all convicted of murder, second-degree murder or attempted second-degree murder — escaped July 30 from a for-profit prison in Kingman, Arizona. The prison is run by Management and Training Corp. of Utah. The facility was built to house minimum-security prisoners, but it was later modified to house medium-security inmates as well. Its current population includes 117 murderers classified as medium-security inmates…
State officials say the inmates escaped through a door at which the alarm failed to sound, then cut a hole in the fence with wire-cutters that had been thrown over the fence by an accomplice. They escaped undetected…
One of the three escapees, John McCluskey, remains at large.
McCluskey is implicated in the murder of a retiree couple from Oklahoma in Santa Rosa, NM – while they were on vacation trailering to Colorado.
As much as Arizona’s Republican governor tries to downplay the role of privatizing prisons in decreased safety and security, we went through the same experience in New Mexico. We had a beancounter Republican governor who sold off every prison he could to private for-profit corporations like the crew in AZ – with the same results.
We ran a monthly pool on escapes.