> 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.
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.
Democracy let this happen but "free market" capitalism created the imperative to do it.
Credit where credit's due.
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)
Is very much in favor of private prisons (and, consequently, $10/min phone calls):
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?
If a democracy wants more prisons and harsh punishment, they'll get it.
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.
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.
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.
There's also another extortion racket to send 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.
The California Police Officers Bill of Rights was passed in 1974.
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.
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...
Does this scheme apply to jails as well? I was under the impression that this was applicable to state prisons.
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.
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.
 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.
Plus, from my perspective, the first priority of any prison should be rehabilitation and reintegration of the prisoner into society.
Elected prosectors, elected judges, elected sheriffs, and the politicization of sentencing rules are just completely nuts.
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 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.
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 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 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. 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 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.
 The problem being: how do you measure that?
 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.
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.
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.
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.
Prison, in most cases, should be a way of reducing recidivism. 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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
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?
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.
“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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
> "As it should be."
"You can't say how things ought to be run, but i can."
I also believe the former to be a moral absolute, which is a second opinion.
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...
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.
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'
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.
"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.