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Expensive 'Prison Skype' Is Squeezing Out In-Person Visitation

As the FCC cracks down on expensive prison calling rates, companies move into video chat instead
A prisoner at a medium-security prison cleans the cell block's pay phones in Cranston, Rhode Island.

A prisoner at a medium-security prison cleans the cell block's pay phones in Cranston, Rhode Island.

Photographer: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The Internet communication revolution is being mirrored, in funhouse form, inside American correctional facilities. Companies that have historically focused on prison phone services that connect prisoners to loved ones and lawyers are now branching into video chats.

Earlier this month, Securus, one of the two biggest prison phone companies, bought JPay, a company that started as a money transfer service for prisoners and has since expanded into video visitation. This comes less than a year after Securus’s main competitor, Global Tel-Link, acquired another provider of prison video chats, Renovo. Now critics fear that the wider rollout of video calling could eliminate in-person prison visitation and cause skyrocketing costs for prisoners and their families.