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The End of Prison Visitation (mic.com)
268 points by jclulow on May 8, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 147 comments

> the trio of prison telecom giants ratcheted up the prices until a single phone call could cost upward of $14 a minute

> If the FCC stops the telecoms from gouging families for phone fees, the next frontier is, well, any other service those companies provide. One of those lucrative new products is prison email, in which families are charged for digital "stamps."

> risk it on her own computer and pay $10 for 20 minutes. Paid video visits were, of course, unlimited. Sims said she racked up hundreds of dollars in fees a month

This is disgusting, and what is most disgusting is that the majority of the population probably thinks this is ok. Politicians don't win votes by being nice and soft on crime and making it "easy" for the inmates. Here on HN and in some areas people are aware and understand what is happening. But large swathes of people would not blink an eye at this.

Also the prison industrial complex is deeply interested in long sentences and repeat offenders. For them that is a guaranteed source of profit for years ahead. Keep the people there desperate, away from family, turn them into permanent criminals for life, to make sure as soon as they get out, they'll be right back in. On paper they can justify as "it is not a right" or "this is to mitigate risk", "keep costs down", "provide more options". But I can't imagine they are also not thinking about the big picture.

No matter the rhetoric about "oh we incarcerate so many people, or we should end war on drugs" as soon as incarcerating people becomes tied to someone making a profit this will never go away.

Its literally out of sight out of mind for people.

This is not an issue where democracy does well - what we need are administrators with a sense of morality and civic purpose, rather than a mob of people who will respond to any perception of being "weak on crime" by voting for the person creating that perception. There is, frankly, a systemic problem of motivation for anyone to actually fix this - everyone in power gets their cut of the profits here. It seems the american way at this point.

I note that the damage is limited in other countries by not electing judges and prosecutors -- these are appointed civil service posts, and while that has its own drawbacks, it means that nobody below the level of Justice Minister builds a career on the basis of how many convictions they achieve/life sentences they hand out.

Maybe if you have "x-industrial complex" and democracy failing on dealing with it, rather than to give up on democracy it would be a good idea to reduce the "industrial" a bit? I haven't heard other countries have these democratic issues with prisons. At least here in Germany. Maybe the industrial aspect simply corrupts politicians and administrators. How would they make different, less corrupt decisions if they weren't even under some democratic control?

A lot of countries especially if small deal with common values better than the US. Most US prisons are dealt with on the state level, with national players taking over states because frankly they can bring a lot more resources to bear. If prisons were dealt with on a national rather than local level it might be easier to get proper reform in.

I had some trouble parsing your statement on the first reading, but I agree with what you wrote: reform is made more difficult because the regulators (states) are less powerful than the regulated, because the latter operate on a national level.

I'd think it ought to do a bit better if people who've seen the wrong end of the system didn't tend to get disenfranchised.

Even if they didn't get disenfranchised there would be no "voter block" of ex-cons that would wield any power. What is right frequently takes a backburner to what is profitable or what is politically palatable. Its ineffectual government through and through.

>This is not an issue where democracy does well

Democracy let this happen but "free market" capitalism created the imperative to do it.

Credit where credit's due.

If there was anything resembling free market capitalism, phone prices would not be $10/min...

You're confusing free market capitalism with "perfectly competitive market".

Nowhere in the study of economics does it say that free market capitalism necessarily leads to all industries having multiple competing companies that drive prices down.

On a somewhat unrelated note, if history and human nature is any indicator, then we know that with an under-regulated market most industries will gravitate towards oligopolies with homogeneous product offerings, monopolies or cartels (colluding oligopolies)

Well, in DC policy circles, the presumed arbiter of what constitutes "free markets" or "economic freedom":


Is very much in favor of private prisons (and, consequently, $10/min phone calls):


> the presumed arbiter of what constitutes "free markets" or "economic freedom"

This assumption is ludicrous. I can't even imagine the thought process that would lead you to think that that makes any sense. Being the loudest proponent of your vision of a concept doesn't make you a good arbiter of what constitutes it: in fact it makes you a terrible one.

Not that I have as low an opinion of Heritage as I do of them, but do you think the Westboro Baptist Church is the "presumed arbiter" of what constitutes Christianity, simply because they shout the loudest about God?

Westboro are not taken seriously in DC policy circles. Heritage are taken very seriously.

I wonder if their view has changed over the almost 30 years since that research report was published.

If anything they seem to have gotten more rabid:


I wonder if their viewpoint has changed since the more than decade and a half since that article was published. Is it that hard to find something current if it's so fundamental to your argument?

A prison is not a free market, its by definition a place administered and controlled by an entity in order to restrict the liberties of those imprisoned there.

This has very little to do with capitalism or private prisons. As the description of the kickbacks ("commissions") explains, the government is specifically making the decision to abuse prisoners and their families, and then contracting out the implementation to a third party.

Or rather passing along all responsibilities to the private sector, and when something bad happens, throwing up their hands and saying "sorry, doing the right thing just isn't economically feasible, we all have to make cuts, that's just the free market".

Kinda gets me thinking about something that showed up in one of Adam curtis' documentaries, but i can't nail down the exact one. something about how the concepts underlying the UK administration was broken down somewhere around the 70s.

Contrary to popular opinion, democracy can be detrimental to the liberal values espoused by our founding fathers.

If a democracy wants more prisons and harsh punishment, they'll get it.

A big part of the equation to also consider is suffrage. Felony disenfranchisement in the US is one of the worst in the world.

One could argue that turnout may be low regardless of rights, but given the US incarceration rates it's still going to be a fairly substantial figure.

Especially if you remove voting rights from everyone who's actually experienced such prisons.

Democracy is just rule by majority. That does not always translate into good governance and protections for individual liberty. That's why in the US the constitution has a lot of mechanisms to prevent erosion of liberties (the bill of rights baked into the highest law of the land, for example) and to moderate the effects of the "tyranny of the majority". For example, many people decry gridlock in the federal government, but gridlock is the intended situation for when there is only a moderate majority for some position in the electorate. The system is designed to require a substantial majority (e.g. 2:1) in order to make lots of substantial changes quickly.

If you trace the root cause of why people are in prison I bet in most cases poverty is a large part.

When will we stop and realize keeping people indefinitely in poverty only makes life worse for everyone? The people behind these kind of schemes are morally more criminal than many of those who are incarcerated. Preying on defenseless or down and out members of society for financial gain is about as low as you can go.

> Politicians don't win votes by being nice and soft on crime and making it "easy" for the inmates.

I do not believe this truism is correct. For example, California Proposition 47 is a direct ballot measure that did much more than making it "easy" for many inmates (it released them!) and it passed easily.

This is an technology update of the landline extortion racket that Sercurus has has in place.


There's also another extortion racket to send money: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/30/prison-bankers-fami...

Officials fooling the politicians with fingers-crossed-behind-back weasel words. Wantonly creating "exemptions" for themselves to disobey clear laws. All while knowingly hurting individuals and damaging communities for a few scraps of extorted money.

The level of Evil here (yes with the cap) has reached cartoon villain proportions.

We probably need a constitutional amendment (the current interpretation of the 8th doesn't seem to be cutting it) detailing prisoners' rights and a separate federal oversight organisation to enforce it. States seem to have been goofing at this for quite some time now and seem powerless to stop it.

California used to have a Prisoners' Bill of Rights. It was repealed in 1994.[1]

The California Police Officers Bill of Rights was passed in 1974.[2]

[1] http://articles.latimes.com/1994-04-05/news/mn-42375_1_priso... [2] http://www.ocregister.com/articles/-225344--.html

Simply unconscionable. I found out about this recently and many people I've ranted to about it seem to think it's just one of the costs of being a criminal.

I guess we've just gotten so "tough on crime" that we've forgotten that many people in jail are there without having been convicted. Moreover, I don't think a lot of people realize that the only reason many of those people are in prison at all is just because they can't afford bail to get out before their trial date.

>I found out about this recently and many people I've ranted to about it seem to think it's just one of the costs of being a criminal.

Until THAT mentality changes, few things will change.

Especially in the country with 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's inmates...

We didn't even get public defenders until the mid-60s. There are presumably still people in jail from before the public-defender system.

>that many people in jail are there without having been convicted

Does this scheme apply to jails as well? I was under the impression that this was applicable to state prisons.

>>Does this scheme apply to jails as well?

Yes, it does. Not all jails (nor all prisons) gouge in this way, but the temptation is strong, as companies like Securus share the spoils with the facility.

More exploitation of the poor. Poorer people have less choice / options because those extra choices tend to cost money. It's a grave evil when organizations leverage this to take advantage of the poor and it happens all the time.

Literally a captive market.

My brother is in prison in Texas. If this happens to his unit and my mother can't visit him I would be the most angry I've ever been in my life. I don't know how I would cope with that. The JPay extortion scheme is bad enough. This is demented.

Before I start, I'm in favor of in-person visitations and generally agree with this article, but I was frustrated by its one-sided nature. They've presented a case highlighting almost none of the motivations behind video visitations beyond the quick buck ($1/minute) and the prison system's obvious desire to screw the families of inmates[1].

Problem #1 at a prison is security. Physical visitation is a security nightmare for all of the reasons you can imagine. The process is onerous to the visitor, the prisoner and staff. Keeping contraband out is very difficult - you can't give a body-cavity search to a visitor (as far as I know). Yes, there are many ways to get bad things in, but this is one of them. Because of these problems, visitations are scheduled events that occur far too infrequently. This also reduces moral.

Many family members of prisoners are unwilling to visit a prisoner for a variety of human factors: being around a large number of criminals is not something most people want to do. Being associated with a person in prison is enough to make a family member not want to visit. Distance, especially in the Federal system where a prisoner can be hundreds of miles away from any family, is a huge barrier. The prisons that I'm aware of that are looking deeper into video visitation are interested in its potential to increase visit frequency and virtual, remote, visitation. It makes the stigma and difficulty of visitation easier (on the visitor) which gives a prisoner a visitor that may not have had one otherwise.

That said, while I think it would be OK for a prison to reduce in-person visitations with the availability of remote visitor visitation, I'm firmly against elimination of in-person visitations (for all of the reasons presented in the article). Security, being the first responsibility of a prison, is benefited by not eliminating the program. But there is likely a balance. With visitations being a "paid affair" (especially at those outrageous prices), and with video visitation allowing for an easier to secure environment, there will also be additional motivation to increase the frequency of these "virtual visits", perhaps to the point of the frequency of what is allowed for phone calls.

[1] I've chosen that wording because that was my take-away of how the article framed the argument. I do not believe this is the actual motivation of the prison system.

You can, however, give a body-cavity search to a prisoner after visitation.

Plus, from my perspective, the first priority of any prison should be rehabilitation and reintegration of the prisoner into society.

Rehabilitation and integration are not goals in the US. It's punishment and deterring criminals. It's dumb and antiquated old testament morale beyond believe.

Let's not single out the US for that. There are quite a lot of places (many even worse than the US) that use imprisonment for punishment and as a deterrent, rather than rehabilitation. It's society's dirty little secret, that some members of it just want "Bad People" to be punished.

There are no other modern rich, democratic countries with anything even approaching the incarceration rate or minimum sentencing insanity the US has, so it's entirely proper to single the US out.

The Japanese system is deeply troubled too although in different ways.

Yes, they have old people who dont get enough for a pension. That is troubling as so far, as it prooves that people can in the end vote with there hands and feets against the free market approach of everyone insure himself against beeing poor at old age.

I'm talking about the justice system. I'm not quite sure what you are talking about.

The recently posted HN Article about the elederly in japan stealing to avoid the penalty of beeing poor for a honest live in capitalism.

The good old "That is fine because Russia, China and Somalia are worse." reply.

Guess you missed the part where I generalized it to "Society". But sure.

Why are those not goals of the US prison system? How can that be changed?

Depoliticize the justice system.

Elected prosectors, elected judges, elected sheriffs, and the politicization of sentencing rules are just completely nuts.

Certainly it should not come at the expense of the physical security of visitors and staff though, right?

You could keep things out of body cavities. Put on a helmet and a chastity belt, securely locked in place.

I do think it would be useful for people who can't afford to go to the prison in person, the price is unreasonable.

I don't know anything about prison but are in person visitations not like they are on tv where the person is behind glass and they talk on a phone? that seems like it would make contraband difficult to get to the prisoner.

That depends - the cost of a hundred-mile drive (in both time and money) is also very high. $30/half-hour is a lot, but it could quickly be less expensive than some visits.

That said, the cost is insane for something that basically runs over the internet with a relatively fixed cost for the provider. Outside of a prison, nobody would pay that much for a video call.

>>are in person visitations not like they are on tv where the person is behind glass and they talk on a phone?

It varies. Many have "contact visits" where you're allowed to sit with the inmate. Not uncontrolled, though...heavily supervised, and usually, with assigned seating that keeps you a few feet apart.

"The prisons that I'm aware of that are looking deeper into video visitation are interested in its potential to increase visit frequency and virtual, remote, visitation. It makes the stigma and difficulty of visitation easier (on the visitor) which gives a prisoner a visitor that may not have had one otherwise."

The kickbacks, sorry, commissions, that the prison gets from these systems probably has little to nothing to do with that decision... distance is really the only reason to -augment- the visitation system, to my mind. Augmentation I'm fine with, reduction of existing visitation, not so much. It's a little condescending too - "We're reducing visitation and increasing paid video visitation, but it's to make you more comfortable, and not have to be around other prisoners".

I somewhat DO think it's the actual motivation of the prison system, or at least parts of it, which is why you see these same companies lobbying FOR three strikes laws, lobbying FOR mandatory minimums, lobbying AGAINST legalization of marijuana because, in their own words, these things increase numbers of convicts in beds.

I'm also of the thought that the strength of will of people who come into the prison system with altruistic goals to fight a suffocating cynicism of grim reality can only be found in a minority.

I have no doubt that there's a strong desire to reduce or eliminate in-person visitations and the goal of adding video visitations is one of the ways they're trying to do that.

I disagree with this for the most part -- elimination, anyway -- I would have less of a problem with reducing visitation frequency provided video visitation was affordable/effective and frequent and the end-result didn't cause prisoners to be more miserable[1]. And I could see elimination of in-person visitation for the most dangerous/high security prisons/prisoners (though I'm fairly certain that's eliminated already, so this might serve as an opportunity to allow a form of visitation where visitation wouldn't exist).

A video call is a much more intimate experience than a phone call[2] and while it doesn't replace an in-person visit, there's probably a balance there that fits well and meets both goals. Whether or not the prison system will put the needs of the prisoners into the equation, here, leaves me pretty skeptical. But I'm rather cynical about the prison system and tend to fall on the side of "rehabilitation" being a more appropriate goal for handling criminal behavior -- something that is virtually absent from the US Criminal Justice philosophy.

[1] The problem being: how do you measure that?

[2] My only experience is as a lone developer working on a team that's in another country and five time-zones away. Video calls are a night-and-day improvement HD Audio calls (we're a Skype for Business shop). Seeing facial expressions, being able to look at and feel out "the room", is hugely important to me. It's been effective enough for me to give presentations to User Groups in other cities.

Pretty simple, in my opinion. Not everyone in jail or prison is as yet convicted. Prison sentences do not explicitly include this kind of restriction.

You can't just arbitrarily decide how to treat prisoners. Moreover after the fact of their sentencing. Let alone people who are in prison who are not convicted or sentenced.

Seems criminally barbaric to me.

I wonder if contraband in the prison decreased, or if the prison guards were happy to meet demand without having to compete with inmate relatives. I would suspect the latter.

A friend of a friend of mine is a prison guard. He is a morally upstanding guy (the type of person you would want to be a prison guard). he hates the job and wants to leave but nobody in the security industry will employ him because they (rightfully so) consider prison guards to be tainted by corruption.

> but nobody in the security industry will employ him because they (rightfully so) consider prison guards to be tainted by corruption.

Just to elaborate, there are a few factors that go into prison guards having a hard time pursuing other employment:

1. Prison guard shifts are often extremely understaffed, which leads to a large amount of buddy-buddy interaction with inmates. "Hey, don't cause trouble on my end, and I'll turn a blind eye to minor (and sometimes major) shenanigans." It's often necessary for the job; inmates can make a prison guard's life hell just by being inmates. It's necessary for a prison guard position, but no security company is going to want to hire someone who happily bends the rules for expediency.

2. The extremely unpleasant nature of the job means that there are three large categories of people who take corrections jobs: the dregs who couldn't get onto a police force, the sadistic fucks who revel in the opportunity to have power over others, and the people who live out in the middle of nowhere who are happy for any employment. The only people whom you'd want to hire from the prison are the third kind, and they're likely to turn you down because they want to stay in Pigknuckle, where there aren't any security jobs.

This, hilariously, leads to an interesting "apprenticeship" program to try to detract a little from this - some states require all prospective police officers to spend a couple years as COs. This is intended to make it so that not everyone wearing a uniform is a shitbag, as there are going to be a whole bunch of idealistic, intelligent, driven people who are becoming police officers of high-standard districts. The problem, of course, is that a lot of these guys quickly get a draftee mindset. "Yep, it's more fucked up than a left-handed football bat here, but I'm only here for two years."

3. The stress of the job leads to balanced, stable people getting the fuck out, leaving the dysfunctional trainwrecks. Infidelity is rampant, drama is endemic among the staff, etc. No one wants those people.

Source: Girlfriend was a corrections nurse for a couple years to get experience, (local hospital had a glut of nurses and wasn't hiring) still has a lot of CO friends. They're an interesting group of people.

By the way, this dynamic hits anywhere that involves dealing with unpleasantness and doesn't pay good money. Inner-city teachers and retirement home care staff have the exact same problems.

Barbarism isn't a crime, so it's not possible to be criminally barbaric.

Except where barbarism and "cruel and unusual" are synonymous of course...

Just one of a long list of arguments against the privatization of the prison system. There are very few things that should be in the exclusive purview of the government, and the prison system is one of them.

Prison, in most cases, should be a way of reducing recidivism. Private prisons have little or no incentive to do that.

> Private prisons have little or no incentive to do that.

Understatement of the month. Corporations that happen to be in the business of incarceration have less incentive for reducing recidivism than smartphone makers have incentive for creating hardware that is still working well after two years and one day of use.

This is an incredible extortion racket. I see a lot of whining about treatment of criminals in America, but if prisons prevent visits in person and charge for video calls, it is just plain wrong.

That "whining about treatment of criminals" you see is based on a lot of legitimate injustice in the prison industrial complex. Generally speaking, if it seems like whining, it's because you just haven't seen what people go through.

Honestly, I consider it criminal how prisoners are treated. In the sense that I believe the people responsible for this stuff should probably be imprisoned in the system they've built. They deserve it at least as much as the non-violent drug offenders behind bars that make up half, or more, of the prison population in some states.

I gather that you're Dutch, so here's a Dutch link:


The Netherlands is far from the nice image it has in the international media. It's the leading country in phone taps and has program that gives the police unlimited rights to harass individuals if the mayor of a city says so.

Perhaps the prisons are empty, but the direction the country takes is pretty much Orwellian.

> It's the leading country in phone taps

That is worrying, but unfortunately not distinctive compared to other countries.

> and has program that gives the police unlimited rights to harass individuals if the mayor of a city says so.

That is from 2006. Is that still an issue?

Is that still an issue?

It's unclear if the practice was entirely abolished, since it was introduced as a reinterpretation of existing law (where have we seen that before?) and has never been challenged in court. But this required a lot of dedicated police presence, and was targeted only towards specific individuals, when sanctioned by an elected offical.

It appears the practice was silently discarded because it yielded no results: http://www.hpdetijd.nl/2009-07-10/zin-en-onzin-van-terrorris... (complete evaluation report is https://www.nctv.nl/Images/evaluatie-ct-2011_tcm126-444048.p..., link in article is dead).

Mayors are not elected officials in the Netherlands (let's hope it stays that way).

oops, you're right.

So what's stopping non profits from installing some hardware and letting the prisoners use Hangouts or whatever?

I don't mean that in a dismissive sense, I mean it very directly. Is it expensive to maintain the hardware? Are the companies charging the high rates getting exclusive contracts? Do the communications have to be monitored by the provider?

Yes, the companies providing the service get exclusive contracts. They also give a portion of the profit to the prison, so of course the prison is going to help them maintain their monopoly. A non-profit can't compete because the companies that DO make a profit have a huge incentive to stop them. They will spend money lobbying lawmakers, prison wardens, etc.

Recording of conversations that aren't protected by attorney-client privilege is standard procedure. If your system can't do that, you'll never get a contract.

You'll never get a contract, because if you aren't gouging, the (comparatively low) revenue sharing you do back to the prison means your bid will be the least appealing.

While we're at it, couldn't you make all the conversations protected by attorney-client privilege? Just have the lawyer host an acoustic coupler in their law offices. All calls are to your lawyer.

Would be classified as an abuse of privilege. Just as in The Sopranos, having meetings at attorneys and doctors offices.

Installing it where? Doing business in a prison is far from a free market.

Sure. Is that for good reason, or is it bullshit?

There are some good reasons, such as a vetting process to make sure the company isn't helping the inmates do anything illegal. Doesn't mean that this hasn't gone overboard, but the seed of reason is definitely there.

This isn't about tech, it's about politics and profit.

Yeah, that's clear enough. My point is, why is the outcome so poor?

The outcome is not at all poor if you consider what it's optimised for: profit for the prison operators and their suppliers.

Because why try harder when it's so easy to make ridiculous profit? Especially because the people are "criminals" that nobody wants to help?

Anyone who does want to help is outnumbered by the fierce and protective cabal that currently runs the prisons and attached services. They're not going to be displaced without some major show of force either through community action or legal regulation.

The outcome is perfect from a market perspective. Keep in mind the prisons are the customers not the inmates or the people communicating with them.

What incentive do the people who make the decisions have to change it?

This seems like a natural extension on the existing landline phone extortion that currently takes place, which the FCC tooks steps to curb recently (https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-takes-next-big-steps-reduci...), which unfortunately courts then turned around and held up (http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/03/07/appeals-court-puts-on-ho...). Hopefully the FCC will step in again and restore some sanity here.

This point is highlighted in the article.

This goes against my religious beliefs - Christians are called to visit prisoners.

“I was in prison and you came to visit me … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:36, 40

That doesn't say you have to visit people in prison, just that it's a good thing to do. It also doesn't say anything against video conferences.

Well no kidding; Skype did not exist over 2 millennia ago. It's still an obvious application of the message to today's world.

I will donate to any effort that brings this to court or a political campaign that runs this line.

You can do what you want in your own home, but you can't demand that the state runs justice in a way that follows your choice of religious texts. I can understand that it's important to take religious views of prisoners into account but if you're just some random person not involved with the prisoner then you'll have to lump it I'm afraid. As it should be.

Actually, in the United States, you can. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_Freedom_Restoration_...), no law can interfere with someone's practice of their religion, unless the law a) does something really important (a "compelling government interest"), and b) there is no reasonable alternative. This applies to the federal government, and many but not all states.

That's unbelievably silly. Having laws arbitrarily apply based on the internal beliefs someone has is incredibly inelegant. Freedom of religion should be an emergent property of freedom of speech/thought/association/etc. For instance, it should be illegal to cruelly slaughter animals, regardless of your personal feeling on the subject. Yet certain groups get exemptions and continue otherwise illegal animal treatment because they, essentially, want to.

RFRAs are a very useful meta-law which do things like, say, prevent prisons from requiring Muslims to shave their beards, or requiring the Jews to eat non-kosher food like pork byproducts in the prison cafeteria (or face starvation). It also prevents the Feds from raiding an Apache powwow and seizing the eagle feathers and fining the dancers hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Actual court case.)

The ACLU used to support RFRA cases quite often.

Prevention of animal cruelty is a compelling interest and can in fact be enforced under RFRAs, using the least-restrictive means possible.

I understand the concept, it still doesn't make it right. But why should it be OK for one set of people to keep beards, just because they really want to, but not for others? Or why should one group be allowed to keep knives, because they swear it's super-important to them, when others are not allowed?

If I'm just disgusted by, say, chicken, or broccoli, shouldn't my assertion to that effect be enough? Seems rather arbitrary to decide some sets of beliefs get special treatment over others, just because they were loud or big enough or "sincere" enough.

As with all laws and governance, granting religious freedoms as opposed to freedoms of every ideology strikes a balance. Religion presents a widespread, structured set of beliefs. The structured part makes it easy to enforce a law of religious freedom, because there is a vast body of source and interpretative work to use. The widespread part means that you are making a concession to a significant part of the population.

There's nothing arbitrary about the choice - it is precisely because religion is both structured and widespread that makes it a good candidate for such a law. Another example of a widespread belief that tends to get exemptions from many laws is freedom of speech(e.g. exemptions from defamation, copyright).

Religion presents a widespread, structured set of beliefs.

I'd rather say that religion presents a social identity, and prescribes a set of beliefs. The identity is what matters more to most people than the beliefs.

However structured it may be, you still end up with a set of arbitrary limitations based on majority rule. I agree with the GP that if some religious conventions are innocuous enough that they can be allowed for a part of the population, then they should be allowed for all, regardless of social identity. And if certain conventions are deemed dangerous, they should be disallowed regardless of religious sanctity.

It's legal pragmatism.

You won't kill yourself over broccoli. They will die to practice their religious beliefs. These things just aren't worth it. It's not worth it to try to restrict trivial shit - it's idiotic.

We already restrict religious freedom where it counts, which is when it interferes with someone's rights.

Indians are allowed to poach endangered animals?

I think the parent poster's point was that ideological freedoms should not be limited to just religions.

But no law has been created to prevent visits, it's just not something the prisons do anymore.

Unless you think religious people should have the power to force you to offer services you don't want to this doesn't apply.

'My religion says that you must offer the public tours around your house.'

Really? Following your bogus argument, the next thing would be to feed the prisoners with bread and water - no law has been created to prevent hot meals, it's "just not something the prisons do anymore".

Prisons are entities which have the power to force human beings into their services - so society has to force the rules over them. This has nothing to do with religion.

>>the next thing would be to feed the prisoners with bread and water

Sadly, things somewhat close to this already exist. A common "tough on crime" statement goes something like "well, they're getting 3 hot meals a day".

In Texas, right now, many of the prisons give prisoners 2 meals a day on weekends instead of 3...supposedly because staffing it too low to serve 3.

But the whole context of this subthread started by benjohnson is about how this goes against the Christian beliefs, and that's what jughtuyi is replying to.

This applies to prisons because they are part of the government, and are therefore state actors. It doesn't apply to private citizens.

Perhaps the commenter is indirectly pointing out that a relatively large block of US voters (many of whom are typically associated with the law and order crowd) have reason to push for changes to the current system.

> "you can't demand that the state runs justice in a way"

> "As it should be."

"You can't say how things ought to be run, but i can."

The former a constitutional fact of law, the latter an opinion.

I also believe the former to be a moral absolute, which is a second opinion.


We've asked you before not to make troll accounts on HN. It's time you stopped.

In the form of political participation and activism one can make such demands. There have been a number of famous instances where such have led to improvements and changes.

Jails and prisons accommodate inmate religious beliefs in food, etc, so I'm pretty sure that's an example of running justice according to choice of religious texts.

>>Jails and prisons accommodate inmate religious beliefs in food, etc

Not universally. And, in some cases, there's an extortion racket for that as well: https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2015/jun/3/fifth-circui...

Wow, what a racket. How can people work for these companies and sleep at night?

I'm more understanding of it now that I have children.

I know that I can deprive myself in order to avoid unethical work. But my children? I think I could, but it'd be bloody hard emotionally, and I have more sympathy for people who fail that test these days.

That's the strangest "think of the children" argument I have ever heard.

It can't be too hard to avoid working for one of these companies.

Also the difference from taking home 250k+ a year and 250K+ and a bonus because you hit your targets a year isn't 'for the children' and that is the type of compensation that the people making these decisions at the top are pulling in.

    > Also the difference from taking home 250k+ a year and
    > 250K+ and a bonus because you hit your targets a year
    > isn't 'for the children'
I take it you're unfamiliar with the cost of private schooling.

I take it that you are very concerned with perceived social status.

Is that all you think is valuable in private education?

Where I live, the only decent high school is private. Friends of a friend re-mortgaged their house to send their son there, after he was bullied so badly at the public school that his health was suffering.

I take your point, but "perceived social status" is really, really valuable.

I agree it is expensive, value on the other hand I find harder to prove.

I appreciate this is anecdotal data, but: in my locale, there are no good public high schools. They have problems with academic results, drugs, and bullying. Going private allows us to send our children to a school without any of those problems.

How is this not a national debate?

The implementation details of the American criminal justice system are considered (by mainstream media gatekeepers, as well as politicians) to be much too unsightly, and fraught with difficult philosophical conflicts (i.e. the matter of whether imprisonments primary purpose is to rehabilitate or punish). The closest they'll go is discussing issues at the scale (and emotional distance) of demographics - racial disparities in arrest/incarceration rates, etc.

Puzzled why your comment was downvoted; it's a prudent question. Unfortunately the standard of public discourse has become so shallow in the U.S. that this type of inhumane atrocity being perpetrated by our government is unlikely to get more than three days in the media spotlight.

We don't have national debates, as far as I can tell. Unless you're referring to things like this forum.

Given the right to a lawyer and the inevitability of technical complications with a proprietary system, I have to wonder if this is even constitutional.

Until the Supreme Court says it is everything in constitutional. Sadly the Supremes often avoid anything that would require actually saying this.

The article is probably filled with correct information, but starting off with a county jail example (there's a clear distinction between that level and prison) was a knock against credibility, given the title.

There's very little difference between jail and prison for this niche of companies that gouge inmates for telecom, messaging, etc. It's the same companies, with the same tactics.

FCC Moves To Stop Extortion Of Incarcerated Families By Prisons And Phone Companies


Land of the free...

Land of the fee...

...and of the f...

I think the critical phrase is "tax masquerading as a service fee". This dovetails nicely with the "debtor's prison" article by Alex Tabbarok, Aug 14 2014.

"We" want "law and order" ( in the Nixon-era sense of the term ) without paying for it. It's oppression by administrative insouciance.


And just as bad a "GlobalTel". Who have no idea what the word "global" means when it comes to paying to just talk to the incarcerated from outside the US.

This isn't a visit. This is an enhanced phone call.

Perhaps writers should put this trend into the Netflix hit show "Orange is the New Black" to get to wider audiences.

Do written letters still work?

This country needs an enema.

It probably cost more to drive to prison than 10 USD for the video call from home.

That's the takeaway here for you?

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