Prison Phone Call Rates Scams

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What Are The Scams In Prison Phone Call Rates?

Prison Phone Calls – Charges and Scams – Learn More

The Federal Bureau of Prisons believes that individual rights for inmate telephone use are ways of preserving community and family ties which affect the personal development of an inmate.”

Inmates have to be completely reliant on the prison authorities in jails in order to make calls to their families and to make payments for these calls. Several companies offer bids for such services in correctional facilities, but the prisons only accept the bids that offer them the highest commission rates for the calls. This leads to a very high charge per call and the burden falls on the inmates and their families. Sometimes, they may have to pay as much as five times the normal cost of a call outside the prisons. The high cost has proven to be a big burden for many inmates.

The prisons tend to charge high commissions and sometimes earn more than 65% of the total revenue generated. Moreover, many of the correctional institutions only allow collect calls for inmates, as these can generate the maximum amount of revenue for the prisons. The inmates are also made to pay many other fees in addition to the high charge for the calls. These fees include the following payments which must be made by inmates or their families towards the prison phone service:

  • Recharge fees
  • Account setup fee for prepaid account
  • Lost account money if not used within a specific time
  • Processing fees for payments through credit cards

Additionally, prisoners in correctional institutions are also not allowed to make three-way calls, as this affects the security of the jails. The inmates might misuse this facility and start making calls to witnesses or to judges who are dealing with their case and so on, which compromises the safety of the people concerned. Many jails tamper with the equipment that is installed in the prison phone service system for detecting such three way calls. The equipment can sense small changes in a person’s voice, or when a person coughs which can falsely signal a three-way call. This results in the call being disconnected unnecessarily, even without a three-way call being initiated. The inmate must then make the call again and again when disconnected in this way.  This is beneficial for the jails as well as the prison phone service company, as the inmate is charged for each of the subsequent calls. When a call is initiated again, the inmate has to pay a call origination charge, thereby increasing the total cost of the call. There are no complaints made in this regard, as both the jails and the servicing company stand to gain enormously.

Such scams have resulted in prisons generating more revenue and according to the Public Staff, they have calculated that inmates and families have paid more than $6.3 million through a single facility and towards a single prison phone service company. With more than 18,000 correctional institutions in the US, they have made large amounts of money in this way.

The Texas authorities realized the huge potential in such phone calls from prisons and decided to allow the prisoners one call every three months without violation of jail rules. In Maine, the DOC even decided to provide the prison phone service themselves, so that there was no necessity of going through an agency or a prison phone service company, thereby reaping all the benefits themselves. The highest court in the state has stated that the Public Utilities Commission has no rights to regulate the practices of the prisons in this regard.

Now, legislations concerning the Family Telephone Connection Act of 2009 have been prepared and submitted, so that the Federal Communications Commission is provided with the right to intercede and regulate the payment that the inmates make towards calls. The bill is under consideration and more than 80 people have signed the petition in order to get support for the bill to be passed. It requests that a cap be put on the charges for phone calls that are made by prisoners and initiated from the correctional institutions, in order to reduce the burden of phone charges for inmates and their families.

Reference: “High rates charged for prison phone calls breaks family ties”, by Dr. B. Cayenne Bird, on 15th August 2009.

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Prison Phone Call Rates Scams

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