Radical media, politics and culture.

Video Visits -- A New Trend in Jails

Daaaih Loong writes

"The Sherburne County, Minn., jail is among a number of
correctional facilities in the United States that have begun
using video visitation technology. Video visitation allows
prisoners and visitors to speak to one another's video
images rather than meet face to face, and many authorities
support the application of the technology because it
prevents any exchange of contraband between prisoners and
visitors and cuts down on the number of personnel needed to
guard meetings.

However, some civil rights activists believe
that prisoners need the face-to-face experience of personal
visits to be prepared for re-entering society, while certain
prisoners say using the system makes them feel that someone
is always watching or listening. Sherburne County has been
operating the system for over the year, with 58 cameras and
screens. Other prisons with comparable set-ups include Blue
Earth and Dakota counties, and the Minnesota Department of
Corrections reports that five or more additional counties
intend to install systems.

Other complaints about the system
include that the images are not always clear, eye contact is
impossible given the angle of the camera, and privacy is
compromised. Kara Gotsch of the American Civil Liberties
Union's National Prison Project also has expressed concerns
over the fact that the systems operate in jails and not
prisons, which means many of the people using them have not
been convicted of a crime. Some courts use the systems as
well, allowing defendants to appear without actually
attending court, which has raised other questions.

You can read the full story here, and a follow up article bu a Minnesota state public defender arguing that this will certainly not make the community any safer here.

(Although free for the moment, The Minnesota star tribune charges for access to articles more than three weeks old.)