State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, has sponsored a bill in order to reinstate in-person jail visits through Legislature. This bill, labelled as Johnson’s House Bill 549, will require two standard non-contact visits per week in county jails and will be implemented by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Many are confident that it will occur before Gov. Greg Abbot for his signature.
Johnson agrees that video visitation was a great tool, which has the ability to expand inmate visits to include more family members. At a recent committee hearing he states, “It’s not about banning video visitation. We’re not saying you can’t offer that as an option.”
Jail officials were noted to have used in-person visits as leverage towards inmates as a form of discipline. This was raised and tackled by Johnson as he ensured the bill would be written in a way that can address this issue. He states that passing this bill would mean the Senate is “taking a position saying look, we like the innovation, but what we don’t want counties to do is make it the only way a loved one can visit.”
During an interview on Friday, Johnson released a statement saying, “I think that when my colleagues are made aware of what’s going on, they will choose to represent their constituents’ interests instead of the financial interests of a single private company.” He added, “Prohibiting people from physically visiting their loved ones in jail is not just bad public policy, it’s morally wrong.”
Horn believes the increase of inmates in the jail population will require more deputies and staff thus requiring more funding and ultimately costing the county more. She resolutely stands by the Securus system hoping for its continued use. “In order to transport all the prisoners back and forth, it takes more deputies and more employees means more tax dollars to pay for it…Jail is not an 8-to-5, Monday-through-Friday job.”
Since January 31st 2015, Denton County Sheriff’s Office has disbanded in-person visits, since then all visits have been video-based.
Visitors have the option of staying at home and going online, but being charged a fee to video-call an inmate, or going to the Nary and Jim Horn Government Center for up to two video-calls a week with no charges.
Nevertheless, responding to the district clerk’s office she states, “Securus denies each and every, all and singular, material allegations set forth in the petition and demands strict proof hereof by a preponderance of the credible evidence.”
Securus’ representative claims this particular “inmate is using a hyper technical and unfounded reading of an administrative rule to sue the jail housing him.”
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