Inmate Communication Is No Laughing Matter

Maintaining order behind prison walls is taken very seriously. Authorities within prisons and jails use their power to grant simple necessities as a method to control their populations. Basic items such as food, bedding and medical supplies are provided to inmates in order for them to function. The communication is another valued privilege in an incarceration facility. Inmates need help from the outside in order to execute the right to talk to friends and loved ones. Inmate communication companies has developed shrewd business models in order to control this particular market. They sign contracts that give them complete access to the facility that they are working in. This prevents the customers from reaching out to other service providers to obtain a better pricing option. The rates can be paid by billing an outside source or opening an account for the inmate themselves. The end result is an expensive business relationship that is carefully managed by executives of the facilities and the communication companies.

There are several programs in place that allow customers of inmate services companies to maintain a steady account. Direct debit is commonly used. The money is billed to an account set up by the customer on the outside. The account is charged every time the service is used. Prices for this particular plan can be as much as one dollar per minute. Consumers have complained. However, they have a gained very little leverage in negotiating better rates with the service providers.

Inmates can also maintain an account that is funded by an outside source. This allows them to use the funds to make contact with whoever they see fit. This account works well for those who do not want to be directly billed for an inmate activities. The account is open for anyone to buy service for inmate usage.


FCC decision would have lowered prices for inmate communications even more

Global Tel and Securus Technologies sued the FCC for an attempt to put rate caps on their exorbitant prices at the end of 2015, according to Alternet. The companies sued the FCC because their legal representatives claimed the federal organization ignored the price of providing these calls. The judge’s ruling imposed a rate of 11 cents per minute on collect calls, a rate which is still above market prices.

Steven Renderos, the founder of Prison Phone Justice praised the decision because it included caps, but he was disappointed because it also set the caps at a rate higher than many of the families of incarcerated inmates wanted. The current higher rates do not serve to punish the prisoners. Instead, they punish the family members of inmates by forcing them to pay between $300-$500 a month to receive calls from their incarcerated family members.

The practice of gouging the families of inmates for collect calls extends beyond the for-profit prison industry. State and federal institutions use these services as well. The companies offering inmate communications services have a near monopoly, and prisons compete to use the vendor that offers the prison the highest commission percentage on collect calls. The current set-up encourages prisons to use the most expensive service providers.

The FCC decision resulted in lower rates despite the objections of Securus Technologies and Global Tel. Families continue to pay the excessive prices in order to stay in touch with their incarcerated loved ones. Despite the imposition of rate caps, this is unlikely to change. Securus responded to the rate cap on interstate calls by raising the rates it charges for its intrastate calls. Rick Smith, CEO of Securus, blames the rate increases on the commissions his firm pays to prisons to provide communication services.

The Inmate Communication Industry, Connecting Loved Ones

Connecting people all over the world is the goal of every communication industry. Inmates are not left out, as the interaction with family members who are on the outside is guaranteed. Calls allow rehabilitation of detainees through communicating with families, permit legal counsel while inmates are incarcerated and also enables the management of the institutions to monitor the calls made by inmates. Two major companies take credit for offering communication services to inmates, the leader being, the Global Tech-link, which accounts for 50% of the market and Securus Technologies taking up 20% of the industry. The services have been able to connect inmates to their loved and enabled monitoring of calls.

The services are however quite expensive compared to other calls made outside the correctional services. The high charges being as a result of commissions charged to facilitate the service. Most correctional services are offering tenders to the company that assures them, quality services to all inmates but at the same time, providing larger commission from the venture. In as far as the services may not be so favorable to most families, more so those that are a little challenged, the industry facilitates communication between them.

Each inmate is vetted on the calls to make, and only allowed calls to authorized numbers. They are allowed at least 15 minutes of the call and a waiting time of thirty minutes before one is allowed to make another call. However, time may vary depending on the set house rules of each center. Those incarcerated also have to register to be allowed to use the service.

Communication is essential for each person’s psychological well-being. A child growing up separated from their parents is never the intention of any parent so helping them connect enhances togetherness and even though they are apart they are still attached to each other.

GTL Produces Another Landmark Communication System Within the Corrections Industry

GTL, a global infrastructure services company, has recently released its brand new inmate calling system across the U.S. The new inmate communication system allows for centralized communications and features a state-of-the-art user interface which has never been seen before. GTL’s platform allows correctional facility customers to access inmates through tablets and smartphones.

Since mobile devices are the preferred method of communication these days, GTL thought it prudent to allow inmates to enjoy the same ease of information and communication that their friends and family do.

What is more, family and friends can easily contact their loved ones within any correctional facility, easily and safely. They simply deposit money into the inmate’s account with the touch of a screen and speak with her through video or text messaging.

Is the platform safe?

The new inmate calling system is completely secure. As customers dial into the system from a wireless device, from anywhere in the world, they enter into a privately secured network and enjoy the same secure features as the inmates do within the facility itself.

GTL’s inmate communication system leads the correction’s platform telephone market in safety and communication efficiency with over a thousand functions and features, all aimed at protecting the general public and securing inmate phone calls.

What have all those security and technological features added up to so far? Well over 3.3 billion inmate call minutes successfully and securely served!

Aside from having the most secure communications platform in the correctional facility industry, GTL’s telephone system is the most advanced as well. With new user upgrades and enhanced mobility features, customers can easily manage the interface platform while feeling safe and secure through all of its functions, at all times.

GTL Unveils Major Release of Inmate Telephone Platform (Learn More)

About GTL

GTL, mostly known for its infrastructure services around the globe, prides itself on its telecom achievements. As part of its telecom segment, the company provides telecom services and support to telecom operators, tower companies, and correctional facilities throughout the world.

Some of the main telecom services GTL provides include:

Network Planning
Network Design

When it comes to correctional facility technology, GTL stands head and shoulders above the rest. The company’s correctional communication platforms are revolutionary in their scope and vision, and offer economic solutions that add value to both inmates and correctional facility staff members alike.

Currently, GTL provides for roughly 85% of the inmate communication services nationwide.

Families of Inmates are Feeling the Sting With Recent Rate Increase

Families of inmates suffered a huge surprise in June 2016. The rates per minute increased. It was already costing family members $1 a minute to talk to their loved ones. Now with the new rate increase, it is going to cost families more to be able to stay connected with their loved ones.

America currently houses over 2 million prisoners. Each one of these prisoners communicate with their family and friends on a weekly basis. The average 15 minute call could be as much as $15. The reasoning behind the prices being so high is because of contracts and deals of revenue sharing with the sheriffs.

Mignon Clyburn, FCC Federal Regulator says that this is the most horrendous case of failure within the market they have seen. The FCC had voted in 2015 for caps on the rates to prevent price gouging. But this only helped with out of state calls. If a prisoner made a phone call from the state they are incarcerated in to another state, the rate cap would come into play. But if a prisoner made a call within the same state that they are incarcerated in, then the rates are based on the discretion of the sheriff and the telecommunications provider.

Securus Technologies is the predominant telecommunications provider in the prison system. They have increased the rates to compensate for revenue loss. The end result is that family members are feeling the strain with the new rate increase.

The advocacy group for inmates, HRDC, went to the FCC and filled out a complaint about the recent increase in rates. Within the complaint it had stated that numerous families around the nation has seen an increase on their phone bill. Securus Technologies reported to the International Business Times that it had grossed $531 million in revenue in the year 2015.

In Greeley, Colorado, the county jail phone rates increased over 50% for a local call. In Holdenville, Oklahoma, the phone calls made locally increased over 40% in a day’s time. The one thing both of these jails have in common is that both have contracts with Securus Technologies.

Mixed Fortunes for San Luis Obispo County Jail Inmates after Slashing of Calling Charges

Inmates at San Luis Obispo County Jail and their families and friends can now be connected through calling services at a much lower charge than they have been used to. However, the new rules have their downside as well. The county will no longer afford to finance programs that it considers important to the welfare of the inmates as well those mandated by the state.

The Impact of Inevitable Losses

With an annual loss of about $162, 000, the county jail is facing difficulties in providing such services as educational courses, legal resources, vocational programs, counseling, treatment for drug abuse inmate patients and even transportation. Only two options remain: the inmates have to be content with the few services the jail can afford or more funding have to be sought from Board of Supervisors.

Although the regulations have been considered for a long time, their full impact on the jail programs will just begin to be felt. While the county has been earning a 56 percent commission from the gross income obtained from the calling service, it has now been dropped to 17 percent. This translates to $0.05 per minute of the $0.30 a minute flat rate charged for the inmate call services.

Crippled Programs

The county runs the Inmate Welfare Fund with the use of a big chunk of revenue obtained from the calling service. According to Tony Cipolla, the sheriff’s spokesperson, commissions from the phone charges accounted for approximately 67 percent of the fund in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Therefore, it is about $ 211,000 of the $315,000 needed to operate the fund.

Although the reduced calling rates are a great relief to inmates and their loved ones, they will have a great impact on their welfare as the programs under which most of the services are offered will be crippled. The only remaining source of income for the jail is the commissary which brings in around $104,000 – an equivalent of 33 percent of the amount required to run the fund. The money is earned from sale of personal items to inmates. They include stationery, hygiene necessities and snacks.