Many people are relying on video call sessions to keep in touch with loved ones during the pandemic.
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Rosemary Brantley is no exception.
“Regardless of how old he is, he’s still my child. And I need to know he’s safe,” said Brantley, of Lakeland.
Her son, Bryant, is in an inmate at Calhoun Correctional Institute, and like everywhere else, the prison is closed to visitors.
So she pays the $2.95 to video call him for 15 minutes, even booking several calls in advance to secure a spot.
Yet, she hasn’t been able to see him even once.
“My daughter and I have scheduled roughly 20 video visits with him. I can’t tell you one full visit that has gone through without any hiccups,” said Brantley.
She says each time the machines have trouble connecting or the screens will cut out after just a few seconds, and families of incarcerated people say Calhoun CI isn’t the only facility with broken kiosks.
Denise Rock, executive director of the prison rights advocacy group Florida Cares, says she’s received at least 35 complaints of the video visitation kiosks malfunctioning in prisons all across the state.
And with this being the only option for inmates to interact face-to-face with loved ones right now, it can be detrimental to their progress.
“Visitation is the single most positive influencing factor for an individual to do well while incarcerated,” said Rock.
She says the Department of Corrections has been receptive to the complaints, but the kiosks are handled by the company who provides them - Securus.
In an email to Spectrum Bay News 9, Securus acknowledges there may be some interruptions in service due to increased use during this time, adding they are working on long and short-term remedies to address the issue.
But Brantley says after nearly two dozen failed attempts to video call her son, she just wants her money back.
“They owe me almost $40 and with people not working and stuff like that, $40 adds up. And I don’t want to just throw away $40 to some company that doesn’t provide a service to us,” said Brantley.
In their email, Securus added they are required special clearance to enter the prisons during the pandemic, which can also contribute to delayed repairs.
They also say they are doing everything they can to offer families a way to communicate with incarcerated loved ones during this uneasy time.
As a result, they are offering two free weekly 15-minute phone calls and four free emails to the inmates.