Put Money On The Phone For Jail Calls

Put Money On The Phone For Jail Calls – The high cost of calling Cuyahoga County Jail Phone calls from the Ohio County Jail cost eight times more than calls from any state prison in Ohio.

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Put Money On The Phone For Jail Calls

Put Money On The Phone For Jail Calls

When Kevin Lott was incarcerated in the Cuyahoga County Jail in 2021, phone calls became a lifesaver. But it is a lifeline with a price tag.

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Lott said the phone calls were necessary for the bond agreement, but his top priority after he was sentenced to five years on robbery and related charges was contact with his children and their mother. By phone, Lott, 35, can try to coordinate birthday and holiday gifts and check her progress at school. Sometimes, while they talk to their older children, their attention is distracted by tablets or smartphones.

Calls from the Cuyahoga County Jail cost 16 cents per minute, eight times more than calls from the Ohio State Jail. People in prison say the costs of the calls have made it possible to keep their families together, help care for their children and maintain their mental health. Some studies say that regular phone calls also play a role in preventing people from eventually going to prison and strengthen the bonds of incarcerated parents with their children.

Last month, the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit criminal justice research organization, conducted an in-depth study of the cost of phone calls from prisons across the country and how they compare to the cost of calls from state prisons.

They report that in Ohio, the average phone call from a county jail costs 20 cents per minute, which is 10 times more per minute than a call from an Ohio jail. That difference is only surpassed by Illinois, where a minute of phone time from prison costs 20 times more than prisons.

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Most jails and prisons contract with private companies to provide telephone services for inmates. A call from the Cuyahoga County Jail, made through a company called Securus, costs 16 cents per minute, according to The Prison Policy Initiative. Securus has contracts with the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center and the Euclid City Jail for the same price.

The county’s contract with Securus originally said the company could charge 35 cents a minute and that the jail would get a 70 percent commission. After the Federal Communications Commission set a maximum rate of 16 cents per minute for out-of-state calls to prisons the size of Cuyahoga, the company agreed with an addendum that set the cost of both in-state and out-of-state calls at 16 cents per minute. Two cents a minute went to the prison as commission.

Between December 2021 and November 2022, the Cuyahoga County Jail received nearly $300,000 in refunds for phone calls, according to data provided by the county. County spokesman Tyler Sinclair said the commission goes into the jail’s general fund for administrative expenses. He added that the county has agreed to extend the contract through 2027 in exchange for improvements to the jail’s communications technology. This includes prisoners’ tablets and video calling equipment.

Put Money On The Phone For Jail Calls

Congress passed legislation in December allowing the FCC to also set limits on in-state calls. Wanda Bertram of the Prison Policy Initiative said the maximum rate in the state would likely be the same as for out-of-state calls, meaning the rates for calls from the Cuyahoga County Jail would not change.

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Lott said he usually burns through a $20 phone card in two days with seven or eight phone calls. That provided a few hundred dollars a month, which he would rely on relatives outside the prison to pay.

“It’s stressful for them because they feel like it’s their responsibility,” she said. “If you have a girlfriend, she will feel disappointed if she can’t (pay). It will go to his pride, (if) he can’t help you “if there are bills.”

Charles Trowbridge, currently incarcerated in the Allen jail, said he spent $5,000 during his last six-week stint in the county jail. That includes several phone calls a day, many from his three-year-old son, who sometimes reads to him on the phone.

He said the calls seem like a necessity for survival as he struggles with mental illness exacerbated by the time inmates spend locked in their cells. At his lowest, he would stop calling everyone, their failure to share the financial burden as a sign that he was unloved. Trowbridge said he made several suicide attempts while in prison.

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“To me, it’s a big mess because it’s like if the system doesn’t pay or make money, they don’t care if you talk to your family,” Trowbridge said. “They really don’t care if you spend quality time … with your children, who need to grow up knowing they are loved.”

Trowbridge said he plans to use his savings to start a carpentry business or buy a house. He spent almost everything on lawyers and phone calls. Now that he has been released, he says he has to start from the beginning.

Companies like Securus and ViaPath don’t charge the same price for every facility. The companies negotiate contracts with county governments to set the prices inmates pay for phone calls, along with other services such as video calls and email, and often include payments from the company to the county.

Put Money On The Phone For Jail Calls

Securus captures 42% of the prison and prison telephone service market, making it the largest company in the sector. PPI reports that Securus also handles calls from three facilities in Dallas County, Texas, for only one cent per minute – the lowest cost in the country, except for counties where pricing data is not available or the county jail foots the bill for the calls .

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Meanwhile, a call from an Ohio prison through the company ViaPath costs just two cents a minute. The state prison system’s two-cent rate went into effect in 2021, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections website.

“Family interaction and communication between incarcerated individuals and their loved ones helps to significantly increase future success rates and significantly reduce recidivism rates,” said Annette Chambers-Smith, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, in a release for the press that the person . “And so we decided to lower the costs through families and friends.”

Lott remembers when the change took effect. Now he says he’s on the phone at Ross Correctional Institution, where he’s serving his sentence, “all day, every day.”

“You can be there for your family more because you can talk on the phone more,” he said. “Some kids need to hear that. They need to hear their father’s voice.”

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Cid Standifer Email is a staff writer for The Marshall Project – Cleveland. He has more than a decade of editorial experience and has written for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Belt Magazine, Cleveland Scene, Eye on Ohio and The Washington Post. Before moving to Cleveland, he covered the military for Stars and Stripes, Military Times, Inside the Navy and USNI News. Standifer holds a master’s degree in African history from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in history and physics from Grinnell College. Federal Communications Commission ends system that could cost inmates as much as $17 per minute – reducing calls to between 11 and 22 cents per minute

Put Money On The Phone For Jail Calls

Federal regulators moved to cap the cost of prison phone calls Thursday in a move to end a system that brought the cost of a call to $17 a minute.

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At a meeting in Washington, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to limit rates for calls with prisoners made from one state to another. Calls to prisons are high due to fees charged by telephone companies, commissions and fees charged by prisons for monitoring calls and for other services.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the US has the “unfortunate distinction [of] the highest reception rate in the world.” He quoted Nelson Mandela as saying that no one knows a country until he is in prison.

“Prison is a family, economic, social thing. The biggest impact of a prisoner’s sentence is often on the loved ones left behind,” said Clyburn.

Clyburn, a Democrat, has been an outspoken advocate of such reform and has made it one of his top priorities.

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