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Articles about Phone Justice

ADA/RA Apply to Jails and Give Deaf Right to TDD

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, (RA) apply to jails and require that deaf prisoners be given access to alternate assistance in using a telephone, such as a Telephone Text Device (TDD) and TDD directory or a sign-language interpreter according to a federal court in Illinois.

Steve Hanson, profoundly deaf with only a limited ability to read lips or understand written communication, was arrested along with about ten other people for possession of cannabis. Hanson informed the arresting officers that he was deaf. They responded by placing him in a police van with other arrestees without informing him of the charges against him.

Hanson was booked into jail and .verbally informed of the charges but not how much bail was needed to secure his release. He informed guards that he was unable to use a conventional telephone and requested alternate assistance. None was given. The jail had a TDD, but the sheriff's policy strictly forbid prisoners using it.

Within four hours of the arrest, all of the prisoners transported and processed into the jail with Hanson were released on bail. Later a guard ...

Colorado Supreme Court Holds Utility Commission Lacks Jurisdiction Over Prison Phone Gouging

The Colorado state supreme court held that the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had no jurisdiction over the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) with regards to inflated phone costs charged to prisoners. Several Colorado state prisoners filed complaints with the PUC claiming that the Inmate Telephone System (ITS) implemented by the Colorado DOC and Sprint Communications Company violated state public utilities law by overcharging for prisoner calls. The PUC dismissed the petition, holding it had no jurisdiction over the prisoners' complaint because the DOC was not a public utility nor a provider of non-optional operator services as a reseller of toll services. The PUC held that Sprint did not require a separate tariff to charge prisoners as it was properly operating under its long distance tariff.

The prisoners then went to state district court which also dismissed their petition, holding that the PUC lacked jurisdiction over the DOC and Sprint to review the fairness of charges for prisoner phone usage. The supreme court affirmed.

The phone system under challenge in this case was in place between 1991 and 1995. It consisted of a debit system where prisoners could place 15 minute calls to phone numbers on an approved list and ...

Phone Profits 'Benefit' Jail Detainees

The Stanislaus County (CA) Jail has a contract with Correctional Communication Corp., a private telephone company that caters to the Prison-Industrial Complex, to provide phone service to the jail's 1,100 captive consumers. There are more than 100 phones in the county's jails. More than 25,000 collect calls to detainees' friends and families were placed from these phones in 1997.

"They are in use 24 hours a day," assistant sheriff Zane Clark told the Modesto Bee . "Everybody's always using them. That's good because it keeps them in contact with the outside world."

It's also good, very good, for Stanislaus County, which receives a 42 percent commission (i.e. kickback) from the grossly inflated charges levied on the calls. The county reaped almost $500,000 from the telephone kickbacks in FY 1996-97.

The county can't do anything it wants with the money, though. State law requires that it be kept in a separate fund and used for "inmate welfare". During FY 96-97 the county expended $155,000 from the fund for such things as books and magazines, sports and recreational equipment, televisions, computers and other equipment, and funding for Friends Outside, a nonprofit group that helps prisoners and their families.

Even after those expenditures, ...

NJ Prisoners Refuse to Swallow PINs

Approximately two years ago, the entire NJ prison system switched to an "automated call" phone system. Despite a predicted hike in costs to family and friends of prisoners, very few prisoners objected in a short-lasting boycott.

On September 15, 1997, the prison population here (Trenton State Prison/NJ State Prison) was notified via memo that all Trenton State prisoners would now be required to complete and submit telephone IPIN [Individual Personal Identification Number] forms, listing ten names and phone numbers, with an additional listing for one attorney. These IPIN forms were distributed to all wings and units within this prison, and were to be completed and submitted by October 15, 1997, at which time the IPIN phone system would go into effect. Those who did not correctly fill out the IPIN form and those who refused to fill out the form or refused to sign their name, would simply be unable to use any phone call to home.

Out of approximately 1,800 prisoners, only about 130 IPIN forms were completed and submitted to the administration. Of that number, about 50 forms had obscenities and other assorted comments written on them.

October 15 came and went and the planned IPIN system did ...

MCI Refund to Florida Prisoner Families

Friends and family of Florida prisoners may be entitled to $190,000 worth of free telephone calls under a recommendation issued by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC).

Between February and July 1996, as previously reported in several PLN articles, telephone giant MCI overcharged Florida customers who accepted phone calls from FL prisons by nearly $2 million. MCI was forced to refund $1.7 million for the overcharges, but has been unable to locate customers who received $190,000 worth of the over-priced calls.

The overcharged resulted from a $3 surcharge on all intrastate calls made from MCI's "Maximum Security" pay phone system in Florida's 40 state prisons. The maximum intrastate surcharge fee allowable under state regulations was $1 for two weeks of that period and $1.75 for the remaining four months that MCI gouged prisoners' "Friends and Family" with the $3 connect fee.

In its investigation, the PSC pointed out that MCI is the seventh phone company since 1991 cited for overcharging on pay phones in state prisons and jails.

Source: Palm Beach Post

Letter of Apology from TCI

Reader Mail

Dear PLN ,

We are aware of the difficulties our customers have had over the past several months in attempting to obtain service from us. Demand has been so great that, because of being underfunded and understaffed, we were not able to serve many of the people who contacted us. To these folks we send our sincere apologies and ask that they give us another try.

TCI is now under new management and has implemented a new process to get our customers on line. If those who have had problems obtaining service from us in the past will call us now we believe they'll experience much different treatment from TCI.

Our company was founded on the principle of obtaining for our customer the lowest possible per-minute long distance rates. In many states, we now offer well under 10¢ per minute for calls from/to anywhere in California. TCI will always search for the lowest long distance rates available for all prison inmates and their families.

PLN has played a huge role, in fact, the only role, in getting the word out about our company. We know the degree of integrity with which PLN serves its readers, and we will ...

Prison Phones Discussed

As more and more prison systems use automated phone systems that automatically record and monitor conversations there are increased questions about the legality of such systems. This ruling arose from an indirect challenge to the Massachusetts Inmate Telephone System (MITS). The MITS requires prisoners to obtain a personal identification number to call 15 pre-approved numbers where the calls are recorded and monitored. [ PLN , Nov. 1994]

William Gilday is a Massachussets state prisoner. In 1984 he settled a lawsuit against the MA DOC over the censorship of his mail and the interception of his phone calls. The settlement enjoined the MA DOC from intercepting any wire communications to or from Gilday. When the MITS was implemented in 1993, Gilday filed a motion to hold the DOC in contempt for violating the terms of the permanent injunction. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants and dismissed the case.

The court of appeals for the first circuit affirmed. The ruling gives an extensive discussion to the interpretation and enforcement of injunctions and the doctrine of collateral estoppel. What makes this ruling newsworthy, however, are its numerous case citations with regards to prisoners' use of telephones, recording of ...

Bureau of Prisons Gag Rule Enacted

Effective June 20, 1997, the Department of Justice and its Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) enacted changes to 28 CFR (chapter V, subchapter A, Part 501) governing general management and administration of BOP prisons. The new rules allow the federal government to target BOP prisoners who are deemed to present a threat to "National Security" for the purpose of eliminating the ability of those prisoners to communicate with the outside world.

Section 501.2, titled "National security cases", states that "Upon direction of the Attorney General, the Director, Bureau of Prisons may authorize the Warden to implement special administrative measures that are reasonably necessary to prevent disclosure of classified information upon written certification to the Attorney General by the head of a member agency of the United States intelligence community that unauthorized disclosure of such information would pose a threat to the national security and that there is a danger that the inmate will disclose such information. These special administrative measures ordinarily may include housing the inmate in administrative detention and/or limiting certain privileges, including, but not limited to, correspondence, visiting, interviews with representatives of the news media, and use of the telephone, as is reasonably necessary to prevent the disclosure ...

Deaf Prisoners in Washington Seek Class-Wide Relief

by David C. Fathi, Jeff B. Crollard and Leonard J. Feldman

Lawyers representing two deaf prisoners in a lawsuit against the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) are seeking to broaden the suit into a class action on behalf of all deaf and hearing impaired prisoners in the custody of WDOC.

Duffy v. Riveland began in 1992, when Sean Duffy filed suit in federal court, alleging that WDOC's failure to provide him with a qualified sign language interpreter for a prison disciplinary hearing violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA), and Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 2.42.120. The district court granted summary judgment against Duffy, but the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings. See Duffy v. Riveland , 98 F.3d 447 (9th Cir. 1996). [PLN. Jan. 1997].

Back in the district court, Duffy was consolidated with C.A. v. Lehman , another case brought by a deaf prisoner challenging WDOC's failure to provide qualified interpreters and other accommodations needed by deaf persons in prison. On December 1, 1997, lawyers for both plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint on behalf of a plaintiff class consisting of "all ...

TCI Breaks 'Inmate Telephone System' Stranglehold

By now you've seen the Tele-Con, Inc. (TCI) ads in Prison Legal News . I first heard of TCI in June, 1997, when a PLN reader sent me one of their brochures. Collect calls from prisoners billed at 10¢ a minute? Yeah, right. This sounded WAY too good to be true. My skepticism radar went on full alert. But, what the heck, I had to check it out. So I wrote TCI a letter.

They sent me a lot of literature. One item was an article written by Tom Farley, editor and publisher of Private Line : A Journal of Inquiry into the Telephone System. I quote Farley here:

"This system from Tele-Con, Inc. lets inmates call from any prison in the country to anywhere in the United States for only 10 cents per minute and have these calls charged back to the party being called -- all without any sort of surcharge or additional long-distance costs."

Hey, it sounded legit. TCI's letter, brochure and promotional material looked first rate. But, still, there must be a catch. So I kept digging.

I exchanged several letters with TCI. They wanted to advertise in PLN (for obvious reasons). I wanted to find ...