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

by KiranChokshi1 min read1st May 20207 comments

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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?

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