For-Profit Venture Providing Video Chatting Service to Austin Jails


Travis County jail inmates in Austin, Tx., will be among the first in the state allowed to video chat with friends, family, and lawyers in a for-profit venture that will earn the county a portion of the proceeds, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The system, approved yesterday by county commissioners, would work like Skype video chatting, but with the same restrictions as in-person jail visits. A corrections officer would be in the room and calls would be recorded, unless it is a call with the inmate's attorney.

Calls to lawyers will be free, but personal conversations will cost $20 for 20 minutes as part of a deal with Securus Technologies Inc., a company that installs phones and video conferencing technology in lockups. Officials anticipate starting the calls in four to six months and have all the features in place one year from now. The county won't pay for the system, which a county official estimated would cost $750,000. The county's general fund will get $4.60 of each $20 call; the company will get the rest. The county’s jails, with 2,251 inmates, typically have about 500 personal visits per day.

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