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National

Prison phone companies are profiting from a pandemic, here’s how the FCC can help

[thehill.com – 4/21/20]

These days, most of us are staying in touch with our loved ones by phone calls or video chats. A single phone call costs us nearly nothing, a video chat requires only a Wi-Fi connection.

But for millions of people, it isn’t so easy. As jails and prisons suspend in-person visits, most incarcerated people and their families are paying outrageously high costs to simply stay connected. The Federal Bureau of Prisons just made voice and video visitation free in its 122 prisons, and while noteworthy, this isn’t enough to ensure that the majority of families can remain in touch at such a crucial time. The majority of the incarcerated population, upwards of 1.7 million people, are in state prisons and local jails, where they will probably face excessive fees to call home. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to push prison phone companies to lower their rates so every family can maintain a connection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Incarcerated people, their families and other allies have been fighting for phone justice for years, but a pandemic like COVID-19 reminds us once again how cruel and unjust these exorbitant call rates are and why rate relief is needed immediately. Prison call rates can cost over $1 a minute and on average, an in-state phone call from jail costs three times as much as one from prison. The national average for a 15-minute call from jail is $5.74. Thanks to a helpful tool from the Prison Policy Institute, I know that by the time it takes you to read this op-ed, a call from New York’s Allegheny County Jail for this amount of time would cost about $7.50, just shy of New York’s tipped wage for a single hour of work.

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My friend who’s brother is in prison get charged .15 PER EMAIL

Prison phone companies have always been exploiting inmates and their families. There were outrageous costs even during the digital age, and even for families calling in on cellphones with plans. The rooms were noisy, dirty, eight people crammed in a small room about three feet from the next person, no privacy, you could barely hear, phones stink and were sticky from dirt. This is why cell phones were going for incredible costs to anyone that could smuggle one in. It is just like the CP farce. It takes many companies and individuals to turn a blind eye for it to… Read more »

Eric,
The privatization of jail phones began in the mid 90s with ALTEL inc, at least in my state. Since that time these firms have been monopolizing much of prison industry. What firm doesn’t seek the cheapest labor? States were compelled to utilize private firms because of advanced tech, which forced their hands because of rising costs of providing service, servicemen and maintenance.

Now, the prisons are making masks for under a buck, just saying they love the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR AT THE PRISONERS EXPENSE, and dont you dare try to STOP Them 💸
The american scumbag way …make us Rich you criminal dogs…
Aaaagh Paatewie !!

Billy,
What is far worse for liberty is TODAY Gov. Cuomo D-NY openly announced “cross jurisdictional tracking” of individuals found to be positive for cronovirus. The sex offender was the first to be sold out to big data giants and electronic surveillance saints the remainder of the general population soon followed. And public safety was always going to be the ” reason. “

I got released from a northwoods Wisconsin prison last fall. For years they contracted with the monopoly dominated Securas phone company that charged .12 a minute instate and .18 a minute out of state. So I paid a pretty penny cause 90% of my calls were made out of state. But suddenly last spring, the DOC dropped the Securas contract in favor of Century Link who slashed rates up to 67% I couldn’t believe it! Now everybody started paying .06 a minute including out of state callers. The change in policy had to do with the prison reforms of the… Read more »

@Russ,
Yep, both parties are surrounded by profiteers each eager to undercut the last. Control the lines of communication and your message prevail. The best part of being the tech elite is you’ve got both pandering. No matter who’s in temporary control the bifurcation leaves out the Middle ground. Now add authoritarian intent on keeping secrets from the people using the machine infrastructure and presto…………https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/04/judge-dismisses-twitters-lawsuit-over-its-rights-publish-information-about

So we’ve seen it, unfettered and unchecked use for purely political advantage absent public welfare component.

Their whole business was built to stick it to inmates and families. Find a way to scam them back…yeah if it were only that easy lol. Actually the best thing to do is to minimize usage. Keep calls to once or twice a week. Say the things that matter the most. You can also call the jails and keep their ears tied up. Get names and details. They’ll lie, they’re trained to minimize the situation and waste as much time as possible. And get involved, write to civil rights agencies or the bbb. Maybe one day it’ll be a fair… Read more »

Oh, it isn’t just the phone calls they are raking in the dollars with! They are making big money off of: ‘Food boxes’: ( which you have to order the food from THEIR supplier); ‘Clothes boxes’: ( which you have to order clothing from THEIR supplier ); Visiting: because the people who visit you have to buy the food from THEIR vending machines: Email: You have to pay for each email you send. Commissary: You have to buy food and sundry’s from THEM! Electronics: You have to buy from THEIR supplier; Musical Instruments; You have to buy from THEIR supplier;… Read more »

Indeed, that is why it is called the Prison Industrial Complex and all the private prison industries have become big. Humans are a comity, and when locked in a closed system they are so easy to manipulate, just like animals in a lab.

Not sure if it’s true everywhere, but when I got out of jail in Michigan they sent me a bill for $30k due within 30 days of release.

Not sure how that works. They keep you locked up then expect you to be able to foot a bill for being in jail within a month of stepping outside.

This killed my credit for a good 7 years.

I’m as cynical as the next person but we really ought to try harder to be objective and factual, unlike Registry Supporters/Terrorists/Idiots/Liars are. Prisons are not really money making operations. Crime costs money. It’s true that individuals are making a lot from prisons but I don’t think it is actually immoral to ask imprisoned people to pay something, to suffer, or perhaps to do work. What would people think that if a person is convicted of a crime, that person is 100% responsible for all costs associated with that crime? So the person would have to pay for all of… Read more »

CCA is just one of the privatization companies contracted with the government. They have gone public. They are on the stock market and have investors. They are making money on the suffering.

@ Will Allen You always have interesting/most times thoughtful points of view. I concur with the “prisons for profit” should not exist. They are centers of corruption. Imagine a prison for profit which was paid dependent upon released inmates low recidivism rates and their production in society. Instead of hiring babysitting co’s…. hire social workers and teachers. Allowing any negative gang activity to exist in the prison would cut into the profit margin. Developing lazy, uninterested hopeless inmates would cut the profit margin. Shattering the self-worth of an inmate would cut the profit margin. Take away phones, support of family… Read more »

@Will Allen I don’t believe I saw anyone in here saying that prisoners shouldn’t suffer. Also, there are states where the Prison system was set up to be a large source of revenue, and it ended up being that they robbed the state(s) of social employment (laundry mats, grocery stores, hair salons, etc.) because much of the townsfolk went to work in the newly built prisons, and the towns went under and eventually so did the prisons. (Saw it on a PBS documentary.) When I was trained to be a tutor, the teacher, who was part of the prison staff,… Read more »

I got you. There are definitely individuals that are likely raking in millions from putting people in cages. And there are definitely people who are yelling to cage more people ONLY so they can make more money. There are always going to be scumbags around who have immoral motives. I was just saying that overall that prisons are not money making operations. You couldn’t just go out on your own and set one up and start making money. Prisons are money losing operations. They lose/waste billions. The money they “make” comes from us/taxpayers/government. We pay to make prisons exist. Our… Read more »

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