Meet the Prison Phone Company Profiting Off Love

While the two of us were writing this blog post, we called each other twice. Our organizations—the ACLU and Brave New Foundation—paid for the calls via flat monthly payments to our respective phone companies. The rates are reasonable, and if they weren't our workplaces could switch to different companies, which keeps prices competitive. Pretty straightforward.

That's not how it works if you have a loved one in prison. To talk to that person, you have to go through a company like Global Tel*Link, the country's biggest provider of prison phone services and the first subject of our new video series, Prison Profiteers. Global Tel*Link charges exorbitant rates to prisoners' families, sometimes reaching as high as $17 for a 15-minute call. That same conversation might cost $2 outside of prison, or just be bundled into a monthly package. Imagine the low-income families who are most affected by the prison system having to set aside that much money for conversations with mom or dad.

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Today, 2.7 million children have a parent behind bars. For these kids, losing a parent to incarceration can be as traumatic as losing a parent to death or divorce. Prisoners are often housed hundreds of miles from their families, making phone the only way to connect on a routine basis. Global Tel*Link's high rates allow the company to profiteer off this basic human need.

Steep prices also mean many prisoners won't be able to call home as often, and that's bad for public safety. Although we've heard the argument that prison should be a harsh place so people won't want to go back, these predatory prices are about making money, not being tough on crime. After all, prisoners who stay in touch with their families are actually less likely to reoffend and wind up back behind bars. Reducing access to this crucial lifeline is dumb on crime.

How can you stop Global Tel*Link's abuses? Sign our petition urging the Federal Communications Commission to cap in-state prison phone rates at a price families can afford.

Global Tel*Link is just one of the many powerful companies profiting off mass incarceration. With far too many people behind bars for far too long, there's a lot of money to be made. Our new series will profile one prison profiteer each week for the next month and a half, exposing six institutions total. Check back to see the rest and take more action at PrisonProfiteers.org.

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lfouseki@gmail....

so what's new? everyone is profiteering off all basic human needs

Anonymous

One of the ways of increasing the cost of the phone calls are by constantly interrupting the call with the warning that your call is being monitored. That notice is given at the beginning of the call. It is not necessary to continue to interrupt delaying the callers ability to continue the conversation. It prolongs the call, increases the amount that has to be paid yet, the caller does not get more talk time for their money. They are thieves and it is being sanctioned by our Government!

Anonymous

Prisoners who maintain family contact have a better chance of becoming responsible citizens once released. That reduces new crime with new victims and the recidivism rate, and that saves lots of tax dollars. The calls are very expensive for families that are often the least likely to be able to afford them.

Families visiting their loved ones is another huge expense and is impossible for many families. California built a string of prisons in remote areas along State Highway Prison Route 99. There is no public transportation to the prisons. Sometimes families move to the downtrodden small towns a few miles from the prisons to be near their loved ones. That increases the burden on the town's services without matching income because there are no jobs for the family members. Building prisons way out in the desert was a stupid decision among other Tough/Dumb-On-Crime decisions. As conservatives say, "Time to get Right-On-Crime".

Anonymous

Prisoners who maintain family contact have a better chance of becoming responsible citizens once released. That reduces new crime with new victims and the recidivism rate, and that saves lots of tax dollars. The calls are very expensive for families that are often the least likely to be able to afford them.

Families visiting their loved ones is another huge expense and makes it impossible for many families. California built a string of prisons in remote areas along State Highway Prison Route 99. There is no public transportation to the prisons. Sometimes families move to the downtrodden small towns a few miles from the prisons. That increases the burden on the town's services without matching income because there are no jobs for the family members. Building prisons way out in the desert was a stupid decision among the other Tough/Dumb-On-Crime decisions. As conservatives say, "Time to get Right-On-Crime".

Anonymous

My 58 year old, very mentally ill brother is currently incarcerated a San Diego jail for a marijuana charge and the only way I can check on him is buying very expensive "phone time" through a company called Securus. Every call gives a very long commercial before we can even begin to speak with each other which really eats up the minutes.

Prison is hell for anyone, but is especially difficult for those who are very mentally ill. My brother wasn't seen by a doctor for 28 days, nor was he given his much needed psych meds during that time. I am a retired nurse and I called the jail daily to bug them or he wouldn't have received treatment even then. I realize those that break the law must be punished, but jails and prisons today house more mentally ill people than ANY hospital or treatment facility. It is disgraceful......

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