Today, the Travis County Commissioner’s Court voted to restore in-person visitation and re-evaluate the use of video visitation in the Travis County Jail. Since 2013, video visitation through the Securus system is the only way for inmates to connect with their families and children. I applaud the Travis County Commissioners for restoring in-person visitation to our jail.
The purpose of jail is not just to simply punish, but to rehabilitate members of our society. We need to decrease our jail population and work to keep people from re-entering the criminal justice system. Restoring in-person visitation is a part of the solution.
- Work with the Judge Sarah Eckhardt and the Commissioner Court to implement and continue in-person visitation and make video visits supplemental.
- Provide adequate information about visiting procedures in multiple languages.
- Partner with other law enforcement agencies to expand free options for video visitation.
- Review visiting procedures that may be uncomfortable to children.
- Look into offering video visitation vouchers for children who cannot visit the jail.
- Scrutinize the Securus video visitation contract and insist that Securus list and justify not just the cost of each video visit, but all fees charged to families.
- Help ensure that there are no extra fees charges in addition to what is detailed in the Securus video visitation contract. Make fees understandable.
- Support quality parenting education such as PACT and PRIDE that allow for child in-person contact visits.
Studies show there are mental health benefits to in-person visitation. Recently, the Austin Chronicle ran a story on Athena Covarrubias, an inmate believed to have committed suicide in mid-August. Athena’s family believes the lack of in-person visitation contributed to Athena’s mental state at the time she committed suicide.
Additionally, recidivism rates decrease when inmates are allowed in-person visits. Keeping inmates connected to their families keeps them grounded and provides a continuing network of support to rely on once they are released. You can read my plan to restore in-person visitation and smart jail strategies here.
The issue preventing restoration of in-person visitation in our jail is simple – funding. Funding for today’s vote restoring in-person visitation will come internally from the Sheriff’s Office. We as a community must come together to send the message that our law enforcement agencies should reflect our values.
Jail isn’t suppose to be fun, but isn’t suppose to be cruel either. The restoration of in-person visitation is smart policing and the humane thing to do. Join me.