Add Money To Cell Phone For Jail Calls

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Add Money To Cell Phone For Jail Calls

Add Money To Cell Phone For Jail Calls

The cost of prison cell phones generates $1.4 billion annually.

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Inmates make pay phones at the Sheriff’s County Jail in 2011. H. Lauren O Jr./MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

For three years, Michea White and her 10-year-old daughter talked on the phone with her husband, who was incarcerated, three to four times a day.

But in March, prices started to rise and daily life became unsustainable. White paid 4 cents per minute to call her husband to 13.5 cents per minute, an additional 99 cents per minute she added to her phone account.

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Her husband’s correctional facility in Carrabelle, Fla., seven hours from her home in Pierce, Florida, switched from telecommunications company Securus to Global Tel Link to handle inmate calls.

White said the change “rocked the bag” and now he tries to fit everything he wants to say into one phone call.

“It’s hard because I don’t want to not talk to him,” White said in an interview with Insider. “I hear his voice, I hear his calm. I know it’s good. It’s not easy if you don’t see the person you want to see every day. You want to hearing his voice every day? I want to make sure I’m okay.”

Add Money To Cell Phone For Jail Calls

U.S. institutions pay $1 billion a year to call family members to prison, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, which says that number reflects administrative costs. by prison cell phone companies to families like White’s to call loved ones behind bars. More than a third of families go into debt to pay for those phone calls and trips, according to the Ella Baker Center, a human rights organization.

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As with many aspects of the criminal justice system, women and men alike bear the brunt of this financial burden. In 63% of cases, the expenses of these calls are borne by family members of those arrested, and 83% of this number are women. About one in four women have a relative who has been incarcerated, but like white women, black women are at higher rates than their white counterparts; 44 percent of black women have an incarcerated family member, compared to 12 percent of white women.

Wanda Bertram, a communications strategist at the Prison Policy Initiative, said companies that pay for prison phones “are taking money away from black and brown communities.” “People are turning to their mothers, sisters, grandmothers and girlfriends” to pay for staying connected, he said.

Many families have no choice but to pay the high prices. “If you’re in prison, you really want to be in touch with your family,” Bertram said, because most inmates are exposed. . and the public. “Companies are benefiting from offering the wrong products,” he added. For example, users of these technologies told Insider that they have experienced technical difficulties that have been ignored by providers.

Nearly every correctional agency in the country contracts with a prison telecommunications company such as Securus or GTL, which combined accounts for 74 to 83 percent of the total industry, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. The phone repair industry is a business that generates just over $1.4 billion in phone calls each year, according to advocacy group Worth Rises.

Phone And Commissary — South Correctional Entity

In their contract bids, the telecommunications companies say how much money the correctional facility will make by dividing the revenue from the calls, testing the prisons to choose which contract to offer. big money.

“This served to create a bidding war between the companies,” Bertram said. “Telecom prices are going up. As companies compete to get more contracts, the only way they can do that is to promise more money to installations.”

But the cost of staying connected has gone beyond just the phone. Companies like GTL also charge customers to load money into their accounts; It costs White 99 cents to add money to his account online and $5 over the phone. He can only add $50 at a time, so he always pays the fee.

Add Money To Cell Phone For Jail Calls

“We’re being ripped off by these big companies that are making money off the backs of people like me,” White said. “I’m struggling, I have a daughter, I’m getting help, but I still have to find a way to send money over the phone because my husband is in jail.”

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Black and brown communities across the country are dominant. Studies show that people of color are stopped by police, arrested, and jailed, and make up one-third of the U.S. prison population. The high cost of cell phones and video calls widens the social wealth gap, especially for incarcerated families who are mostly from low-income families.

Maintaining relationships with family and friends after prison release is related to reciprocity. A Minnesota Department of Corrections study found that even one visit reduced recidivism by 13 percent for new offenses and 25 percent for technical offenses. violation

“People feel better about coming in and talking to their families,” said Bianca Thielek, founder and director of Worth Rises. “Everyone really wants to see that communication is free in prisons and jails.”

Families have long fought for their right to contact their loved ones, filing lawsuits with the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the communications industry. The FCC sets the cost of interstate calls at 21 cents per minute for prepaid calls and 25 cents per minute for postpaid calls. But 80% of all calls are government calls and not by government law. Demand from the largest phone companies has disrupted the lives of many families, and state courts have differed in how they regulate phone rates.

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Rights groups are urging prisons and computer companies to offer free phones in addition to laws such as the Prison Cell Technology Reform Act, which would clarify the FCC’s authority to regulate such phones and their price.

Tech startups like Ameelio are also working to provide free and secure video conferencing services that people can use to talk to loved ones in prison.

“There’s this endless list of ways they’re using basic technology that’s been here for a decade or two and then putting it into a currency,” Tylek said. “It’s really cool, not just because it’s expensive, but because of how much of this technology is available to us here.”

Add Money To Cell Phone For Jail Calls

But until then, families across the country, like White’s, who want to be reunited with loved ones in prison, will continue to use their savings to do so. so.

County To Eliminate Revenue From Jail Calls, Provide Free Phone Time

“You don’t pay a ton of money for a phone call here. You don’t pay money for Zoom,” White said. “What’s the best way to pay that money to the families? Why are the rules always different for the correctional department? Why not have a choice of services that we can choose from?” said the anonymous fan. More than 70 million phone records were stolen from Securus Technologies. Securus provides telephone service to landlines in the nation’s jails and prisons, serving 1.2 million inmates. The Intercept examined 37 gigabytes of interrogation data and found that the databases contained inmate names, the phone number of the call, the date and time of the call, and the length of the call. The fan also posted links to some phone recordings. So why are all these prison calls being recorded and stored?

There is no doubt that prisons must monitor inmates’ phones because inmates have used the phone system to communicate with criminal partners on the outside. In one famous case, two inmates in Alaska set off a suicide bomb against a witness who testified against them. In 1991, inmates learned Raymond Chili Jr. and Joseph Ryan to three foreign colleagues by telephone on how to make and send mail bombs. The witness was out of town when the bomb was dropped, but the blast killed one family member and killed another.

The problem is that not all calls can be recorded legally. Jail Recorded Calls The questionable phone records include nearly 14,000 calls from the jail to phone numbers associated with attorneys. Communications between prisoners and their attorneys are protected by the Sixth Amendment. Prisoners who are not on bail or are incarcerated

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