August 5, 2017
The Boston Globe
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson has hit on a new idea to mistreat the inmates he’s been elected to rehabilitate: deprive them of in-person family visits.
If that seems too cruel to be true, take note that this is the same sheriff who infamously volunteered his prisoners as free labor to build President Trump’s mythical border wall. But Hodgson’s latest volley against prisoner rights is not merely an act of empty political showmanship. He’s nearly finished installing the video equipment that would replace in-person family visits for about 900 of the 1,500 inmates under his control. It gets worse: Ultimately, the plan is to charge families for a video connection to see and speak with their incarcerated loved ones.
Under the plan, video-conferencing with inmates on-site will be free for their relatives, but a remote option will not. If families want to connect using a webcam at home, they will have to pay anywhere from $5 to $20 for a 15-minute video call — with the sheriff’s office taking a commission. “This is the picture the sheriff has in mind: I will save money by not having as many guards, while I earn some money off the backs of poor families,” said Jim Pingeon, director of litigation at the nonprofit Prison Legal Services.