[U.S. Specific] Criminal Justice Reform in the Time of Covid-19

by KiranChokshi1 min read1st May 20207 comments

3

Covid-19
Personal Blog
Write a Review

I've been following LessWrong for some time now, but this is my first post. Looking to start a conversation around prison communications, the private prisons industry, and US criminal justice system reform.

I've started working for Ameelio (ameelio.org), a non-profit technology company committed to transforming the criminal justice system. Founded by Yale students, Ameelio focuses on improving prison communications technologies. Users can letters to any prison facility in the country, make video calls, send e-messages, & explore data, for free. All of our services are free of charge. We are open-source.

Just zooming out to see the scale of the problem. Over 2 million Americans are incarcerated. 10% of Americans have an incarcerated loved one. Prison is a revolving door - US has very high recidivism. Research shows that increased contact with loved ones reduces recidivism.

Prison telecommunications companies (e.g. Securus, GTL) have monopolies and make billions charging inflated prices to contact incarcerated loved ones.

        • Average family with incarcerated loved one - $13K in debt
        • Forced to pay up to $1.22 per minute phone call

In only a month after launch, we are now sending 300+ letters a day through the platform. People just type their message and it is sent to their incarcerated loved one free of charge.

Covid-19 makes staying connected all the more important. We predict the next 2 years to see the greatest cumulative release of inmates in US history due to crippled state budgets and virus transmission inside prisons. States like New Jersey have already announced the release of 1,000 inmates.

What are your thoughts on prison communications, the private prisons industry, and US criminal justice system reform? What could be better? Is it a way for private companies to prey on society's most vulnerable, or do companies like Securus play an important role in our country's future?

And what are your priors on how coronavirus will affect socioeconomic disparities in the United States?

3

7 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:17 AM
New Comment

Since you are interfering with the profits of the monopolies with virtually no oversight, my guess is that, once you are big enough to be noticeable, new rules will be introduced to shut you down.

Is it a way for private companies to prey on society's most vulnerable, or do companies like Securus play an important role in our country's future?

That sounds like a confused or purpusefully misleading question.

The more important question is why we have companies like Securus in the system. It's my impression that punishment is part of the philosophy that the US uses to incarcerate people. Cutting people of from easily communicating with the outside world is part of that philosophy.

Having control over the communications is another important priority. You don't want people to organize criminal acts while in prison. It's easier to control communication if there isn't much happening. You likely do need to provide services to control communication if you want to allow video calling and not just provide letters that get controlled through the regular channels.

Over 2 million Americans are incarcerated. 10% of Americans have an incarcerated loved one.

I'm very unsure about what you mean with "loved one" here. Are you saying that Americans on average have 150 loved ones?

15 loved ones?

Ah, yes. It's still a number that seems higher then they amount of close relationships most people seem to have.

Agreed, especially accounting for presumably significant overlap. I’m guessing whatever this claim is based on either has some sort of selection bias or is counting more people as a loved one than common usage

Ah, yes.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply