Communicating with inmates has become big time business for many companies in the United States and Canada. Large organizations have streamed lined the process, and discovered a market that is easy for them to control. An inmate doesn’t have an option of choosing a particular service when trying reach out to friends or family members. If they are in a position where visitation isn’t allowed, phones are usually the best recourse. The rates are set by the service providers. There is no negotiating plans and pricing. This leaves the customer at the mercy of the big companies that control the communication process.
The FCC has looked to intervene and set a cap on rates. However, these efforts have had little impact. The pricing is arranged in a deal with the technology provider and the local law enforcement agency. At the moment there is little that can be done about how these two entities conduct business.
Calls are priced at about a dollar per minute. Interstate communication rates have been regulated by the FCC. This means that an inmate call form Virginia to North Carolina is price capped by law. The rates are set and cannot be elevated by the service provider. Intrastate calls are not subject to this regulation, and often become inflated. It is believed service providers have adjusted their pricing on calls within state to make up for revenue lost by the FCC regulation.
Large companies blame the FCC’s involvement for not being able to accommodate customers with lower prices. Since the government agency regulated one aspect of their business, they claim that they were forced to adjust service rates in order to cover costs. In the end, the consumer is getting the bill.
After 14 years of campaigning for prison phone calls regulation, advocates for prisoners together with their families managed to attract the attention of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In October 2015, FCC announced the new rates. According to these rates, caps per-minute in federal or state prisons would be 11 cents while it will cost 22 cents per-minute in local jails. The new caps are fair compared to previous year’s charges, which went as high as 89 cents. An FCC commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, expressed her excitement through her touching speech, explaining how happy she was that the issue was addressed after a long time.
A Republican Commissioner, Pai, also pointed out how the contraband cell phone trade has been violated in Georgia prisons, without making direct links to the culprits. However, Global Tel-Link and Securus, the two main phone services providers at correctional facilities, did not receive the news well. The chief executive officer of Global Tel-link, Brian Oliver, condemned FCC’s new rules by saying that it would create financial instability in their company. This situation will in turn hurt the same inmates that the body is trying to protect. Conversely, Securus argued that the new rate caps are way below their cost of business and vowed to appeal to the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
However, the new FCC rules left out two major issues surrounding the controversy of the inmate communications. One is the expensive video chat services that limit in-person visitations. The second is the prison telecom industries where prison facilities sign contacts with specific service providers who charge high fees to prisoners in an attempt to deal with rivalry in paying back the prisons. The executive director of the prison policy initiative, Peter Wagner, has been advocating on the elimination of these site commissions. However, he sees it as a worthless venture since companies will always have other ways of bribing the sites. This information was originally reported on Bloomberg as provided in the link below http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-22/is-this-the-end-of-sky-high-prison-phone-call-rates-
A contract between the South Carolina Department of Corrections and the Medical University of South Carolina has provided four of the state’s prisons with audio and visual communication technology geared toward remote diagnostic medicine that avoids having to transport inmates.
The S.C. DOC averages $58 million spent yearly caring for the health of approximately 20,620 inmates, one of the lowest per-inmate costs in America. However, laying out $22,000 for the MUSC mobile carts through state appropriations, $70 per hour that detention facilities pay for every complete patient evaluation from a doctor, and $300-per-day cost of on-call emergency services may expand the telehealth program into every prison across South Carolina, if results earn the General Assembly’s blessing.
DOC officials are hoping legislators take to heart the risks inherent in putting prisons on lockdown every time dispatching two corrections officers and a driver to escort an ailing inmate for medical care leaves staff shorthanded. That’s to say nothing of the public risks if an inmate should escape in transit to and from a medical facility.
A detention facility nurse can utilize telehealth technology to request an immediate consultation from an on-call physician by way of each mobile cart’s MUSC-connected computer portal equipped with speakers, microphones, cameras, and instant access to patient medical records. Once in contact, the doctor can then provide assistance from checking for rashes or skin lesions to directly examining the ears, nose or throat, listening for breathing or heartbeat irregularities, ask patients about symptoms, and even request immediate blood tests, X-rays, and blood pressure tests onsite. More serious conditions can still be treated by bringing inmates directly to MUSC.
Thanks to the efforts of Sheriff Daron Hall, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office will lower its charges for inmate phone calls, changes which will take place within a few days.
In the midst when Metro is requesting for more money in order to be able to construct the downtown Criminal Justice Center in Tennessee, Hall is happy to announce that inmates at Davidson County will start paying 5 cents per minute instead of 13. Davidson County will have the lowest inmate phone call rates in the United States, something really unconventional.
According to Hall, it is crucial for inmates to be able to communicate with their families. According to psychological studies, recidivism is substantially reduced when inmates are able to communicate with their love ones on a consistent basis. Communication also reduces the amount of burden that inmates have to deal with, including family members. Alex Friedmann and Jeannie Alexander endorsed the Sheriff. Friedmann is a former inmate and an advocate for human rights. He also manages a prison newsletter. Alexander is a founder of an inmate advocacy organization.
Before inmates payed 13 cents per minute, which was outrageous. According to Carla West, there have also always existed fees that have been added to phone calls. So, instead of inmates paying $8.41 for ten minutes, prisoners will only pay 50 cents. Such rates are only applicable within the state of Tennessee. The Federal Communications Commission passed a law last year stating that jails that size of Nashville’s could charge no more than 14 cents per minute. Before, prisons and jails across the United States were charging at least $14 per minute.
Conventionally, private businesses have been profiting from jails and prisons in the United States. And one of the reasons why they charge so much is due to commissions, and usually the family members of inmates are the ones that have to pay for the high prices. According to Friedmann, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office is a great example to the country and represents a good step.
Many people in America have loved ones in prison. Their loved one is locked away, but they have to suffer as well. They are limited to when they can visit, and how they can contact their loved ones. Many loved ones are shocked as to how expensive staying in touch can be.
A recent article in News Press, explored inmate phone calls. The cost of prisoner phone calls has long been an issue for prisoner rights groups. Calls are paid for by either inmates or family members, and they can cost as much as a $1 a minute. Some companies have even emerged to cut the cost of prison phone calls. These firms use VOIP to cut the cost of calls. Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough firms looking to fight the high cost of phone calls.
ConCallsHome is one company that wants to change the cost of inmate calls. They know that 2.7 million children have at least one parent that is prions, and they want to make communication between parent and child easier. They utilize VOIP to make the calls cheaper, but they are not in every prison, so some family members have to resort to desperate measures.
The regulations on prisoner phone calls are passed by the FCC, but they vary based on where you are located. In most cases, the further away you are, the more your call costs. Some family members have changed their area code, so they have less to pay. This desperate measure can save as much as $20 a call.
GTL is a leading prison communications firm. They are known for overcharging their customers, and they are fighting regulation at every turn. The FCC will struggle to regulate GTL, so other firms are having to act. Securus has sent out several press releases warnings about GTL’s dangerous actions.