Phone Service System History

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A Short History of the Prison Phone Service Systems

Prison Phone Systems – History and Background

Regarding the use of telephones by inmates in jails, there were a few conditions laid down by the BOP or Federal Bureau of Prisons.

BOP Conditions Regarding Telephone Use By Inmates

The Federal Bureau of Prisons recognizes the use of the telephone as a means by which inmates can connect with their loved ones. Being in touch with the outside world also helps inmates connect better with society on leaving the prison.. By offering telephone privileges to prisoners, the BOP can ensure that family ties are maintained, and prisoners can stay in touch with the community to aid in their personal development.

A Short History of How Inmates Came To Access Phones

 In the beginning, prisoners did not have much access to telephones and up to the year 1970, they were only allowed one call every three months. This could be done only with the express permission from the prison staff by making a written request and receiving a written approval. In the year 1973, the BOP launched a new directive in order to enable inmates to have healthy contact with the community.  On the basis of this directive, inmates could make at least one call every three months. The calls were monitored by the jail authorities to address security concerns.

In the 1970s, such systems were found in many jails and the inmates were allowed to make collect calls using the payphones. Prison staff found this system less of a burden and the procedure was effective in 31 of the 36 BOP institutions by 1976. The correctional authorities were able to listen in on or record the calls, but the inmates were allowed any number of calls they wanted to make.

But this kind of freedom only led to misuse by the inmates. As a result, about $100,000 worth of fraudulent calls were made in the Metropolitan correctional center in New York and also elsewhere. In many jails, inmates also made threatening calls to judges. Thereafter, the facilities permitted the BOP officials to install devices allowing officials to listen to the calls and by 1982 about 50% of the institutions had such devices.

The telephone systems were again misused in two cases, in the year 1983, where prisoners used the facility to break out of prisons and the whole system had to be re-evaluated. The task force suggested a ‘four pronged strategy‘ which involved a restriction to the number of calls and also serious monitoring on the part of the concerned authorities. This was not implemented, however, and some wardens made other suggestions in 1984. That year, call monitoring systems were installed in a few facilities to begin with and finally, in 1986, an Automated Intelligence Management System, known as AIMS, was installed in all BOP jails.

In 1988, the ITS, or Inmate Telephone System was created and used by all jails run by the federal government. With the help of this system, the authorities were better able to limit the number of calls, control and monitor them.

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Phone Service System History

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