With the FCC's rate caps threatening revenue, prison phone companies have sought new revenue streams with "electronic messaging" services and video chats. Reformers welcome new services for prisoners and their families, but say these options are expensive and highly restrictive compared to services like email or Skype. Companies like Securus have even convinced some sheriff's departments to replace in-person visits with "video visitation," a shift that advocates ardently oppose. Lewis said the companies could box out VRS as well.
TL Lewis is well aware that prison phone companies are looking for new ways to make money. In fact, companies like Securus may now view VRS providers as competition in its emerging videophone market. In its comments to the FCC, Securus boasted about installing 5,000 videophones at US facilities, but opposed HEARD's proposal to require VRS at jails and prisons, arguing that such technology is a privilege, not a right.