Jail Phone Service System History

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Knowing More about the Jail Phone Service System and Its History

A Background of the History of Prison Phone Service

The BOP, otherwise known as the Federal Bureau of Prisons, has made certain stipulations with regard to use of telephones by prisoners.

Conditions of the BOP for Use of Telephones by Prisoners

Prisoners housed in jails can keep in touch with their friends and family by means of a special telephone facility. It also enables them to integrate better with society upon release. With regard to the above, the BOP believes that they can manage correctional institutions with the help of telephone privileges that they offer to inmates. According to the BOP, this also enables inmates to remain in touch with the community and their family members and this, in turn, will enable them to better develop their character.

How Inmates started Accessing Telephones – a Brief History

In earlier times, prisoners did not have ready access to telephones and until 1970, they could only make a collect call once every three months, after making a written request and obtaining approval. In 1973, the BOP started a new directive in order to allow inmates to have regular contact with the community for a more constructive development.  According to this new directive, inmates were allowed at least one call every three months. However, the prison authorities were to keep certain procedures in place in order to manage security concerns while such inmate calls were being made.

In the mid 1970s, many of the institutions had payphone systems so that prisoners had better access to telephones. The staff also found this procedure less of a burden, as collect calling was enabled for the prisoners with the payphone. By 1976, 31 out of 36 BOP institutions had a payphone installed without any limits to the number of calls made by inmates. Whenever possible, the officers at the institution could listen in on the calls and there was also a possibility to record calls in some facilities.

However, the prisoners of several institutions abused this system as the number of calls that could be made was unlimited. In fact, it was noted that fraudulent calls to the amount of $100,000 were made in 1976 from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York City and also in other centers. Additionally, the inmates were found to make threatening calls to judges and other officials. To rectify this, a device that allowed the BOP officials to listen to calls was installed in more than half of the institutions by 1982.

Despite this, in 1983 the telephone system was used twice to aid inmates in escaping from prison and a task force was established to revamp jail telephone systems. They suggested that a ‘four-pronged strategy’ be implemented by imposing some restrictions on telephone use as well as the number of calls along with monitoring to prevent abuse. This, however, was not implemented and several wardens made other suggestions in 1984 that incorporated monitoring facilities. These suggestions were implemented on a pilot basis and an ‘Automated Intelligence Management System’ known as AIMS, which was computer-based, was installed in all the BOP prisons in the year 1986.

ITS, or the Inmate Telephone System, started in 1988 and was made available in federal prisons, involving some amount of restriction and control over the calls.

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Jail Phone Service System History


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