While Securus is feeling the heat in its phone business, it is moving into new sectors to secure profits. The most lucrative investment appears to be video visiting, a new technological frontier where the company already has a foothold. Video visits from home can be of much benefit to families, especially for those whose loved ones are incarcerated in remote locations, where so many prisons lie. However, as with phones, Securus’ main focus is not providing access, but devising means to make more money.
According to a report compiled by the Prison Policy Initiative, Securus not only stands at the cutting edge of this market, but is also implementing the most draconian contractual terms. Key to this has been its insistence that county jails that implement video visiting must eliminate options for face-to-face visits. The report notes that Securus is the only firm pushing such a policy. Plus, Securus has by far the highest rates for video visiting, reaching as high as $1.50 a minute in some instances. The company’s practice of banning face-to-face visits became the target of a national mobilization in Dallas, Texas, last year. The efforts by prison phone justice activists prompted a local court to reject Securus’s request to eliminate in-person visits.
Securus has also gained a foothold in another carceral technology that lies outside the realm of regulation: electronic monitoring. In the last year and a half, Securus has acquired two firms that specialize in providing the GPS-linked ankle bracelets used for monitoring. In 2013, they bought up Satellite Tracking of People (STOP), which bills itself as the largest monitoring provider in the United States. Then, in 2014, it bought out the General Security Services Corporation (GSSC), which, in addition to providing monitors, offers a range of other technology.
At present, the electronic monitoring sector pulls down an estimated annual revenue of $300 million. However, with increasing pressure to cut back on corrections costs, the use of ankle bracelets may escalate. This can provide a lucrative revenue stream, especially since in most instances the people wearing the bracelets have to pay a daily user fee ranging from $5 to $40.
And hey while we’re here:
The city of Ferguson, Mo., and another northern St. Louis suburb have been accused of maintaining “grotesque” jail conditions for motorists locked up because they couldn’t pay fines for minor legal infractions, according to two federal class-action lawsuits.
The lawsuits against Ferguson and the city of Jennings describe conditions in which crowded cells are smeared with mucus, blood and fecal matter and inmates are denied basic hygiene supplies and medical care.
Some residents spend “three, four, five” weeks in the jails, not to serve a criminal sentence but because they can’t afford to pay a fine to get out, said Brendan D. Roediger of the St. Louis University School of Law. …
In one particularly expansive paragraph, one of the lawsuits describes “Dickensian” conditions for inmates at the Ferguson city jail:
“They are kept in overcrowded cells; they are denied toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap; they are subjected to the constant stench of excrement and refuse in their congested cells; they are surrounded by walls smeared with mucus and blood; they are kept in the same clothes for days and weeks without access to laundry or clean underwear; they step on top of other inmates, whose bodies cover nearly the entire uncleaned cell floor, in order to access a single shared toilet that the city does not clean; they develop untreated illnesses and infections in open wounds that spread to other inmates; they endure days and weeks without being allowed to use the moldy shower; their filthy bodies huddle in cold temperatures with a single thin blanket even as they beg guards for warm blankets; they are not given adequate hygiene products for menstruation; they are routinely denied vital medical care and prescription medication, even when their families beg to be allowed to bring medication to the jail; they are provided food so insufficient and lacking in nutrition that inmates lose significant amounts of weight; they suffer from dehydration out of fear of drinking foul-smelling water that comes from an apparatus on top of the toilet; and they must listen to the screams of other inmates languishing from unattended medical issues as they sit in their cells without access to books, legal materials, television, or natural light. Perhaps worst of all, they do not know when they will be allowed to leave.”