Notorious Prison Contractor Proposes a visit to virtual reality

An exterior view of San Quentin State Prison in San Francisco, California, where Global Tel Link (GTL) is the prison’s only provider of phone calls.

An exterior view of San Quentin State Prison in San Francisco, California, where Global Tel Link (GTL) is the prison’s only provider of phone calls.
photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Global Tel Link (GTL), the massive prison-hiring giant that provides technology ranging from telecommunications systems to payment services for correctional facilities in the United States, may have found another way to squeeze more exchange out of people imprisoned doing contact with the outside world.

How Vice first reported, Global Tel Link (GTL) recently presented one patent which describes a “ssystem and method for a personalized virtual reality experience in a controlled environment “.

In fact, what this describes is a virtual reality system through which imprisoned people could interact with other people outside of prison – basically, virtual reality tours using digital avatars. Other possible uses could be to allow prisoners “for a short time, to imagine themselves outside or outside the controlled environment.”

GTL obviously intends the ways in which this system can be used to be entirely at the whims of prison officials, who normally guard any access site outside.. The patent describes a “monitoring system” that “continuously monitors the visual information of the virtual reality session for any prohibited action … performed by a user’s avatar that the control center determines is not suitable for to a virtual reality session “.

The patent is filed in September 2019, so any such product could be a long way from being installed in prisons.

Prisons have never been a nice place to meet, but in recent decades, for-profit correctional facilities and prison contractors to the US extensive industrial complex-prison they have eagerly taken on what is literally a captive market. For example, controlled by GTL approximately 46% -53% of telecommunications contracts in U.S. prisons beginning in 2017. Both he and his The main competitor Securus has been accused of using its domain participate in price reduction.

The Federal Communications Commission intervened in May 2021 to hinder the practice of contractors shaking inmates for phone calls, limiting international and out-of-state calls to $ 0.12 per minute for prisons and $ 0.14 for prisons. This did not limit calls made within a state, which are still overly expensive. Research of the Initiative of penitentiary policies has found that contractors charged exorbitant rates for calls nationwide, with the worst example in Arkansas, which charged up to $ 25 for a 15-minute call from the county. or city-run prisons or $ 4.80 from a state prison in 2018. In an Oregon county, GTL charged almost $ 18 for a 15 minute call. The Penitentiary Policy Initiative says most fees they are paid by the families and they are inflated by the “setbacks” that contractors pay to government institutions as correctional systems.

GTL has stated that it wants to reduce prison phone costs and attributes the high costs to things like security and the supply of correctional equipment. But the Orlando Sentinel reported this year this Florida inmate families were furious over a new GTL contract with the state Department of Corrections that added a 99-cent flat– rate of all prepaid deposits and rates are only reduced per minute by half a hundred, up to 13.5 cents. The contract also eliminated the cheaper options for calls made locally.

In 2019, GTL was reported handing out tablets to West Virginia inmates he advertised as “free.” The hardware was free, but the fees charged to inmates for using the tablets were enormous. Access to content costs 5 cents per minute, the cost of the video visit 25 cents a minute plus 25 cents per text message, photo attachments cost 50 cents and video attachments cost a dollar. As estimated by the prison policy initiative in 2017, West Virginia inmates passed among themselves 4 i 58 cents per hour, sending a photo can take 12.5 hours of work.

As the motherboard observed, virtual reality has done just that it had been used before in prisons for purposes such as skills training and preparation of inmates scheduled for release potentially disorienting return in modern life after long stretches between bars. But it is not difficult to imagine a situation in which the visit to virtual reality becomes one more excuse to suck until the last day of imprisoned people, their families and loved ones, especially because private prisons and their contractors they have all the incentives to replace the free visit in person. with remote calling technology for which they can charge astronomical rates. Like the Guardian reported in 2017, it has become extremely common for U.S. prisons to do so, citing data from the Prison Policy Initiative which showed that 74% of U.S. prisons that implemented remote visit programs reduced or eliminated face-to-face visits. .

This is far from the only proposed use of VR in the correctional system that somehow manages to sound more dystopian than the current facilities that are maintained in the neighborhood of 2.3 million people in all of the United States on a given day.

A Study 2020 by the Indiana School of Law and Social Equality, proposed using VR headsets for “Provide a virtual environment in which the criminal is penalized for the crime he commits,” with an example that subjects an inmate with arachnophobia a punishment where more and more spiders were added to a “virtual environment that completely mimicked his reality. · That of the world prison “. (The study noted that “there is, of course, no precedent for this ”and these punishments could run into the punishment clause of the eighth amendment but that advocated at least discussing it.) Others have defended virtual prisons, in which the file the use of physical institutions would be limited and replaced by technology such as location tracking and mandatory solitude on virtual reality headsets.

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