back to article Want to visit your loved one in jail? How about Skype instead?

A jail in the US has taken its embrace of technology a little too far by putting an end to in-person visits – and requiring family members to video conference with their locked-up loved ones instead. Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson, of Bristol County, Massachusetts, took the decision to end face time at his Dartmouth cooler – and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A better solution

    Don't do the crime if you don't want to do the time, instead of bitching about prison life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A better solution

      but what if the law is the crime?

      No seriously... there are a crap ton of laws out there that NEVER should have been laws in the first place. But since lobbyists concerns out way the peoples concerns - sometimes you have to "peacefully" break the law in order to bring light to the rubbish.

    2. Electron Shepherd

      Re: A better solution

      Not sure how it works in the US, but in the UK you can be locked up just for being suspected of a crime - "remanded in custody" it's called. Sometimes the person is subsequently found no -guilty, and the net result is that a person goes to prison for a period, even though they are never actually convicted of a crime.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A better solution

        To be fair you typically have to be suspected of a very serious crime to be remanded or have a lengthy recent period of proven offending. Most joes on the street wouldn't be remanded as they aren't a flight risk.

        1. Throatwobbler Mangrove

          Re: A better solution

          This is unfortunately wrong. American jails have large numbers of people in them (mostly poor people of colour) who have been charged with crimes that are not "very serious", and they're too poor to post bail. Prosecutors and public defenders are hopelessly overloaded, so people are kept in pretrial detention for absurdly long times. It's an outrage.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: A better solution

        According to "Marvel Comics Civil War 2", Hawkeye the Avenging Archer was put in superhero jail like that BEFORE his trial for shooting (with an arrow, a special one obviously) The Incredible Hulk. So, that happens. On the other hand, anyone who really wanted to talk to Hawkeye just visited him in his cell, by hypnotising 100 prison guards or walking through the walls or whatever. So it isn't the greatest example.

      3. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: A better solution

        It's the same here. We have a case were a 16 year old was locked up for 3 years and never went to trial. He was often tossed in isolation. the Teen end up killing him self.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A better solution

        It's similar in the state I live in, maybe a little worse. You can be arrested and locked up for suspicion of a crime. The worse part is, at your preliminary hearing, the state doesn't have to do anything more than justify their suspicion, and if accomplished you are formally arraigned on those charges. There is no grand jury in my state, which leads to very little (if any) investigation before people are arrested and charged.

        I know this first hand, having gone through the process. I was not a flight risk, but my bail was set at $120,000, for charges that were not drug related or violent. People have been booked on far more dangerous and serious charges, and have had significantly lower bail set. I sat in jail for eight months before being allowed to see the statement of the person accusing me of a crime. Up until then, the only evidence the state produced was the affidavit of the detective who arrested me on suspicion. Once I saw the accuser's statement, I felt even more confident rejecting the offered plea agreements (which I had been doing anyway) and demanded trial. Suddenly the DA changed his tone, and dismissed those bogus charges. Whoops, sorry about that! There's nine months you never get back...

        The jail I was in had the Plexiglas visitation room as well. The phone calls were much more expensive than what the article stated, but did go down later on last year. However, the fees attached to the money that your friends/family add to your account increase exponentially as the amount deposited increases. It's a flat fee, not a percentage. I've seen it go up over $12 at times.

        With all that being said, there are many people in jail who have yet to be found guilty of anything, but are certainly treated as they're guilty beyond reasonable doubt. It's a terrible ordeal.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A better solution

      The US prison system is pure class warfare.

    4. strum Silver badge

      Re: A better solution

      A better solution would to acknowledge the damage that this asinine approach does to you, me and every 'decent' member of society.

      Those convicts that you consign to inhuman conditions will, one day, be released into society. If they are then inhuman towards you - you have no-one to blame but yourself.

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: A better solution

        Sadly most people ignore that fact and say that bull shot line of if you can't do the time dont do the crime. The forget that that person your turned into a phyco one day will be on the same street as you.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given their source of income it is hardly surprising if those running jails do their best to make sure the inmates re-offend as soon as possible after they are released.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two wrongs...

    Say all you want about inmates "deserving" everything they get. Paying your debt to society has little to do with legalized corporate extortion.

    1. goldcd

      Especially in this case

      Somebody got upset that they were unable to charge per minute for the use of "a piece of glass"

    2. Halfmad

      Re: Two wrongs...

      Even if you blame the person in prison, the family and friends visiting don't deserve to be treated with such a lack of respect and empathy.

  4. John F***ing Stepp

    At the moment

    Under the private prison system, profit rules. So if it is cheaper to keep someone in a 5 by 5 box than a 10 by 10 box then the box gets smaller. Eventually, once AI becomes really good, the box will shrink to 2 by 2 by 6 and feeding costs will go way down.

    So yeah, don't do the crime and probably don't make posts like this one.


  5. Chris G Silver badge

    Cruel and unusual punishment

    And not only for the inmates, when you consider there is more than 1% of the US population in prison and that the vast majority of them come not only from ethnic minorities but poor underpriviledged at that, the ones who will suffer most are the families and loved ones. They have to take time out, often from work, to go to visit and now they will be charged and extortionate amount to NOT actually visit the inmate but chat on a crappy little screen.

    Land of the free*

    * Some aspects of freedom may carry a charge, by reading this you agree to our T&Cs.

  6. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    They should need a different excuse

    The excuse was that drugs were almost transferred because both visitors and prisoners can enter the visitor room (at different times).

    Solution A) A video conference room cleaned by prisoners when not in use.

    Solution B) Hire a cleaner for the old visitor room.

    The world would be a slightly better place if extortionists were required to come up with and excuse that actually made sense.

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Interesting message it gives to the criminals

    "Extortion is Ok if you can get away with it"

  8. DanceMan

    In America prisons are not about justice or god forbid, rehab, they're about business.

  9. Andy Tunnah

    Why not both ?!

    Video conferencing for the day to day, to replace impersonal phone calls. And it's not just the the inmates who would benefit from this, can you imagine the joy it'd bring kids, especially younger ones, who would get to see Dad ?

    This is has a whole other awesome side to it; a lot of parents won't bring kids to prisons/jails, it's just not suitable. A lot of the incarcerated never even get to see their kids grow up. Now they can watch birthdays, speak regularly, show them the macaroni art. Damnit I'm tearing up here.

    Can you imagine as well the power taking that away would have to encourage behaviour ? More than a lot of cons hold onto the idea of seeing their loved ones again. A constant reminder of what they look and sound like would be god damn glorious.

    And of course, keep the face to face visits, because cutting off human contact that doesn't involve a shiv is downright barbaric.

    And to to the prick who said "don't do the crime blah blah I'm a twat", don't be an insensitive bellend.

    (mods feel free to remove that line if it went too far)

    1. notowenwilson

      Re: Why not both ?!

      Your logic has no place in the US prison business.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Why not both ?!

      There would be the risk you keep on running your criminal business from prison (and maybe obtain help to evade) - not so uncommon as soon as you have enough ways to communicate with the outside. Depends on the crime, and who the prisoner is.

      That said, I agree cutting face to face visits - but maybe for very dangerous people - is barbaric. But the whole idea of a private prison is barbaric. There are systems that only a state should be allowed to run - and held liable for directly. And of course, they can't be ways to make money and "maximize shareholder value".

  10. DougS Silver badge

    Almost all contraband is brought in by the guards

    They control the visitor interaction (if there is any at all) and search inmates thoroughly where they are allowed contact with visitors. Jail employees are bringing in the drugs, I wonder what excuse they'll have when using Skype/Facetime doesn't reduce the incidence of contraband one iota?

    1. notowenwilson

      Re: Almost all contraband is brought in by the guards

      They won't need an excuse. Someone will be making money and a cut of that will go to the people who run things.

  11. moiety

    Skype is cruel enough; but making people come in to use the terminals is beyond disgusting. Whoever thought of that piece of crap is on the wrong side of the bars.

  12. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    This is greed.

    Reducing facetime would already make a huge saving, as you Need less guards, less dedicated vistor space, less front facing staff (vistor greeters, etc.) and possibly Money saved for the prisoners families in not having to travel to the more remote prisons.

    And if the Prisons just did that, OK i could kinda understand it as a cost cutting measure, but then starting to charge huge sums for it AND still making the People come to the prison is just greedy.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something like this perhaps?

  14. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    Here are a bunch of people that are already downtrodden and f*cked over in life. Yes, they were convicted of crimes, some of them pretty horrible. But they are still PEOPLE. Cutting off human contact with loved ones, which may be some of these folks only ray of hope or happiness in life is NOT the way to accomplish anything, and is just a shitty thing to do. This is supposed to encourage 'respect' for society when society treats you like crap?

    If you disrespect people and treat them like animals, they will become (worse) animals.

  15. DrFrito

    I always thought the argument about class warfare was so ignorant.

    People think certain classes of people are too stupid to know the law.

    To me, it's still a very literal issue, if you break the law, and it's a serious enough offense, then you go to prison.

    I had a tour through the Denver State Pen once a long time ago. One of the trustees cells had a tv, rug, and recliner in it. I couldn't believe it. There wasn't anything else in there, but still.....

    Now someone will probably ask why there are so many blacks in prison? I don't know. I still bet, however, that they knew what was right and/or wrong, then made the choice to do the wrong thing.

    1. DasWezel

      You're looking at that comment completely the wrong way - it's not written from the perspective of "Lower classes are too stupid to know the law"; it's written from the perspective of "Upper classes are too well off/ and/or connected for the law to apply to them."

      That is and always will be the way to some extent. For a kick-off, and Ignoring all the claims about connections and hands in pockets etc.,the wealthy would be utterly stupid not to use their wealth to employ much a better legal defense than somebody on the dole. The wealthy are also less likely to fold under the financial strain of defending a case through the courts.

  16. Pirate Dave

    But what about...

    conjugal visits? Do they still do those sorts of things? Might as well just charge them to access in that case...

  17. rjmx

    Ah, yes, Hodgson ...

    This Hodgson turd is getting somewhat of a reputation around these parts. For example, he announced, upon Trump's election* (about which the less said the better), Hodgson announced that he'd be ready to send his inmates south to help build the infamous wall.

    Sigh. Why do conservatives have to be such arseholes?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, yes, Hodgson ...

      "Why do conservatives have to be such arseholes?"

      If they weren't, nothing useful would ever get done.

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