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The end of American prison visits: jails end face-to-face contact – and families suffer
It’s been described as ‘Skype for the jailed’ and is being sold as safer and more convenient. But it begs the question: are in-person visits a human right?
One sunny day in October, at the Jefferson Parish correctional center just across the river from downtown New Orleans, Tiffany Burns, 34, was visiting her boyfriend.
The pair had been dating for almost two years and were still giggly in love when a late July knock on the door sent him away. Scooped up by the police after being accused of robbing a suburban bank at gunpoint, Chrishon Brown, 37, was sent to the correctional center while his case worked its way through the court.
A new, unwelcome chapter of their relationship began, with Brown using all his jail funds to call Tiffany, and Tiffany visiting as often as she could.
It was a long drive from her home in the Metairie suburb west of New Orleans, and could sometimes take about an hour each way with the traffic near downtown, but Burns was happy to do it. “When I visit, sometimes I forget about the glass and it feels like we are together again.”
She felt that way during her visit on 12 October, right up until the moment she walked out the jail door and was handed a pamphlet.
“Visit an inmate from anywhere!” exclaimed the heading. A photo of a smiling blond woman using a tablet with her daughter was featured on the next page.
“From now on, no more visits,” said the jail guard, as she shut the door behind Tiffany. “If you want to see him, read that.”
“I didn’t realize that would be my last visit,” Tiffany later said.
$12.99 per call. In-person visits used to be free