Dallas County Will Not Ban In-Person Visits for Inmates After All

Dallas County commissioners are asking for new bids on a controversial contract for the management of visitation and phone services to jail inmates, after County Judge Clay Jenkins and inmate advocates objected to a proposal that would have ended face-to-face visits while letting the county profit off families visiting their jailed loved one via video.

The original version of the contract with Securus, a local technology company, would have obligated the county to cut off in-person visits to promote remote video visits, from which both Securus and the county would reap payments.

Jenkins led the fight against the contract's approval, telling supporters in an email that "video and phone companies hook elected leaders to the sugar of 'commissions' the contracted company share with local government while socking the cost to the loved ones of the incarcerated with a high priced scheme."

The judge hoped to pass a court order that would've completely restarted the bidding process, opening it up to firms around the country.

That measure was voted down 4-1, but Jenkins and the bevy of speakers who came to advocate for inmates didn't walk away empty-handed. The commissioner's court voted to reject the contract and reopen the bidding process to all original bidders. Any new bids are required to eliminate commissions for any paid video visits and to continue to allow in-person, face-to-face visits.

The bidding process needs to be handled quickly, Sheriff Lupe Valdez told the court, because the jail being left without phone services for inmates would be a completely unworkable situation.