Jail Phone Call Charge Scams

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Knowing More about Jail Phone Calls and Charge Scams

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, telephone privileges for inmates are additional ways of preserving community and family ties which will pave way to an inmate’s personal development.

It is, however, seen that the inmates housed in correctional facilities are entirely dependent on the jail authorities for making calls and for making payments towards these call charges. It is also noticed that many bids that are placed by jail phone service companies are not accepted as the jail authorities are only interested in awarding the service to the company that offers them the highest commission. In such cases, the charges for the inmates might be more than five times the normal cost of making a call from a jail facility. The inmate or his family or friends have to bear this unnecessary burden and find it difficult to make calls to their families.

The commission that the jails make is almost as high as 65% of the total revenue gained and to add to this, many institutions also make it mandatory to make only collect calls, as the rates are high and this increases the revenue for the jails. There are also other additional charges that the inmate has to pay other than the high rate for such collect calls, namely:

  • Fees for setting up prepaid accounts
  • Fees to be paid towards recharge
  • If funds are not used within the specified time, the balance expires
  • If credit cards are used for payment, there is a processing fee to be paid.

Inmates of jails are barred from making three way calls, as it is important for security concerns. Three way calling might enable them to make calls to numbers of witnesses and judges who are taking care of their case and can thus be misused. There is certain equipment fitted to the system for detecting a three way call, such as detecting even a cough or speaking louder than normal. However, such equipment is also tampered with in several correctional institutions. The detection system makes the call get disconnected and the person has to dial again, thereby resulting in the inmate having to make two to three calls in place of one and this increases the revenue for the jails, as there is a call origination charge for each call. The jails as well as the jail phone service company benefit from such practices, so the situation continues without question.

It has been observed by Public Staff that an amount of approximately $6.3 million has been spent by inmates towards such calls in a single correctional institute towards a single jail phone service company. Over 18,000 other jails all over the US have similarly made a lot of money with such tactics. Taking into consideration the huge revenue to be made with such jail phone calls, Texas changed their old policy so that the now allow inmates to make one call every three months if they haven’t violated any of the rules specified by the institutions.

In fact, after seeing the huge potential of making money, the DOC in Maine themselves took upon the job of providing  jail phone service without the use of a middle man, the phone service company, so that they could make the profit for themselves. There is also a ruling in this regard from the State’s highest court that the practice of the jails in supplying the service themselves cannot be refuted by the Public Utilities Commission as it is beyond their jurisdiction to regulate it.

Finally, in 2009, an act to safeguard the Family Telephone Connection was passed, so that the Federal Communications Commission could take steps on behalf of the consumers and the family of the inmates and make some changes to regulate the jail phone service system. The committee is still deciding over the issue and over this bill and an attempt is being made to get people’s support. Over 80 people have supported the petition by signing it, requesting the President to regulate the rates and charges that prisoners have to pay to make calls.

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

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/114469

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Jail Phone Call Charge Scams


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