In 2014, Montgomery Women’s Facility implemented a Web based Visitation System provided by Homewav. We are unsure as to how much Alabama Department Of Corrections takes in kickbacks, but CenturyLINK takes a cut of 40% of the extortionate $36 fee that is charged for a 60 minute “visit”. Homewav also charges a $1 handling fee every time money is added to the account so its effectively $37 for a 60 minute video call.
Whilst the idea of web based visitation is a good one if done ethically, Homewav certainly do not consider the inmates or their families in their business plan, all they care about is profit. For example, they claim that internet based visitation reduces the number of in-person visitation, by 75% and the families of those incarcerated don’t understand how cutting in-person visits from family and friends is in anyway beneficial to them.
The benefits of visiting with family and other supportive individuals are well documented throughout literature, research, and from the voices of the incarcerated men and women and their families. In person visiting can build and strengthen family connections and provide hope and encouragement for those incarcerated, lets not even entertain the thought of removing it in order to provide these predatory companies with even more of your hard earned cash.
Replacing in-person visitation with an internet based visitation system such as Homewav would be disastrous, they have no interest in corrections or rehabilitation, or an inmates ability to communicate with their families or an inmates welfare, all they care about is putting money into their pockets. It’s blatant Prison profiteering of the lowest order, insidious and predatory.
The hardware that they installed in the facility is apparently not fit for purpose. The computers regularly crash, they lose connectivity or completely freeze up but the families we spoke to said that even though their loved ones can’t hear or speak or even disconnect the call, Homewav still runs down their visitation minutes. It would appear that Homewav chose the lowest dollar value hardware that they could find, and it was installed by poorly trained individuals that lacked the professionalism to ensure that the system was functioning as it was apparently designed to do.
As a result its the female inmates that suffer, one example is that they did not align the web cameras properly, as a result, the women have to sit on books, or sit at an awkward angle to get into the view of the camera, they can’t adjust them themselves as they are fixed in the tamper-proof box, one camera has a piece of tape that has been placed over the lens since 2014 so you can only see half of the screen as this image clearly shows.
Other complaints include the deduction of all funds and being left with a negative balance. We were told that the new owners/management have told the staff that they are not give give refunds under any circumstance, nor are they to refund minutes that mysteriously disappear from their apparently flawed system.
Homewav operates with a handful of staff, and they hardly ever pick up the phone, one lady told us and when they do, they say they don’t give refunds. Perhaps a more serious question is that of vetting. For example, What is Homewav’s process of vetting staff? What are they watching inmates conversations for and who do they report this too, if at all? Whats the standards and processes that they follow? What privacy laws are being flouted? What is the retention policy of stored messages? Where are they stored and who has access to them? Is it secure?
Homewav are partnered with CenturyLink, so you would expect some semblance of quality of service right?
Well you’d be wrong there, other issues with the system include the handsets that the inmates speak through, they have had the volume level in the computer terminal set to low, so on at least one of the three terminals, the inmates almost have to shout in order for themselves to be heard by the other person, thats a difficult situation to be placed in, with a room full of people sat behind you in the TV room, frequently too, other inmates remove the chairs so those wishing to call a family member have to squat or stand and lean over in order to be seen on screen, the whole thing is just totally amateurish, don’t be fooled into thinking either that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent developing this software, we were shown on a popular “rent a coder” website, Homewav apparently having invited bids for fixing various issues within the system, from a gentleman based in Bangladesh.
Taking a look at the site and its poor design, it does make you wonder that if they can’t even get the basics right, can you really rely on them backing the back-end accounting and billing system working right? Unfortunately not is the answer, Well the part that takes your money always works for them as its hosted by paypal, but with a top dollar price tag that the families and friends of those incarcerated have been forced to pay, for a service which is far superior and free, in the free world.
You can leave your loved one a message and vice versa, the rate per one minute message is $1.20, however the system is incorrectly deducting $2.00 per one minute message and despite Homewav being informed that their system is over-charging they have not adjusted the price or issued a refund.
Be sure to file your complaints about Homewav to the Better Business Bureau