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Articles about Phone Justice

San Diego Jail Approves Free Phone and Video Calls

The County of San Diego Board of Supervisors (Board) voted unanimously February 27, 2021 to stop charging prisoners and detainees in county jails and juvenile detention centers for phone calls. The initiative called for the Board to develop a plan by May 4 which prohibited the county from generating revenue from phone calls and to find funding to replace that lost revenue. Effective July 1, 2021, all jail prisoners can make unlimited phone and video calls to day with each phone call being limited to 15 minutes and video calls limited to 30 minutes.

San Diego County Jail (SDCJ) contracts with Securus Technologies for phone services. Prior to the change, costs ran from 21 cents per minute for prepaid interstate calls to 33 cents per minute for local and intrastate calls. Detainees were also charged $2.50 for a 20-minute video visit, $2.00 for voice mail messaging, and several different service fees for account maintenance. Under the current contract, the county makes $2.8 million each year which is used to operate juvenile detention centers, pay for educational programs, manage indigent supplies, and more.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer introduced the proposal, stating that it was morally wrong to generate revenue in this fashion. ...

Tenth Circuit Rejects Government’s Appeal Over Recorded Attorney Calls and Visits at Private Prison in Leavenworth

by Dale Chappell

Over five years ago, federal prosecutors in Kansas used recordings of attorney visits and phone calls to obtain convictions in numerous criminal cases. The recordings were made by a private prison in Leavenworth owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, which has since changed its name to CoreCivic), and then handed over to prosecutors. Once this scam was exposed, hundreds of prisoners filed motion to toss their criminal cases. Despite that the federal court found the prosecutors were in contempt of court for refusing to turn over the evidence it illegally obtained, the government still tried to white-wash its disgraceful acts through multiple court challenges and complaints.

The government’s latest attempt was an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, where the government complained that the district court’s investigation into the recorded meetings and calls was unlawful and that the judge’s criticism of the government’s acts was harmful to the government’s other cases stemming from those acts. It said that these things could harm the cases still open that are challenging possible constitutional violations by the government and CCA. But the Court of Appeals ruled on May 4, 2021, that the government’s appeal ...

Connecticut Makes All Prison Communications Free, Makes History

Connecticut made history on June 16, 2020, when Governor Lamont signed Senate Bill 972, making the state the first in the country where prison phone calls will be free for all prisoners and their families, including incarcerated youth. The state Senate and House fully funded the bipartisan bill, allocating $11.2 million in the budget. Other jurisdictions like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego have made jail phone calls free, but no state had taken the same step across its prison population until Connecticut passed this bill into law.

The change comes after years of organizing and lobbying by advocates for prisoners and families, including the Connecting Families Connecticut coalition. Worth Rises, a New York nonprofit, helped to lead the fight, and its Executive Director Bianca Tylek said the bill will save prisoners and their families in the state $14 million dollars a year. It will also help connect struggling families trying to stay in touch and assist in reentry by improving access to support networks, she said.

“Today, Connecticut made history by becoming the first state to make prison calls, and all other communications, free. All of the brave advocates and directly impacted families who fought ...

Iowa Jails Lower Phone Rates But Not Far Enough

The Utilities Board has approved rates for five jail phone providers: Prodigy, Network Communications International Corporation, Combined Public Communications, ICSolutions, and Global Tel*Link. It has not yet approved a rate for Securus, but it and the other companies were instructed to keep their rates at 25 cents or less for prepaid calls.

GTL’s proposal for prepaid calls was unanimously approved on February 16, 2021. It sets the rate at 22 cents per minute for prepaid calls from the Black Hawk County Jail, 16 cents per minute from the Scott County Jail, and 11 cents per minute from the Boys State Training School.

This type of price disparity is something the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) requested the Utilities Board to end when it ordered a price reduction. ‘‘The incarceration of of a loved one is stressful. Families should not ...

Michigan Begins Video Visits During Coronavirus Pandemic

‘‘Contact with friends and family is so important to the prison population, that’s why we worked hard to explore new technologies that could allow them to connect with their loved ones during this time,’’ said DOC Director Heidi Washington.

Video visitors must be on a prisoner’s Approved Visitor List, which may include immediate family members and up to 10 non-family members. Each visit lasts 20 minutes and costs $3.20, the same as a regular phone call. The service is provided by prison phone vendor Global Tel*Link (GTL). A $318 million behemoth in the $1 billion prison phone service market, GTL has recently been the subject of two federal class-action lawsuits over its pricing and account practices. (See PLN, Feb. 2020, p.38.)

In Michigan, GTL has reduced the fees prisoners pay to access the Internet or mobile phone networks by $1. In addition, the company offered every prisoner ...

People in jails are using more phone minutes during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite decreased jail populations

Our study of 14 jails finds that there were 8% more overall minutes used during the pandemic, despite the fact that nationwide jail populations have fallen about 15%.

But, like the jail population reductions, the increase in phone minutes is attributable to COVID-19. Across the country, COVID-19 cases have ballooned in prisons and jails. Insufficient medical care, aging populations, poor preparedness, inability to social distance, and lack of sanitation combine in correctional facilities to create deadly conditions amidst a global pandemic. As a result, many jails have suspended in-person visitation, leaving phone and video calls as the main way for people to communicate with loved ones.

It makes sense, then, that more minutes were used in 2020 than 2019. This increase was attributable to both longer and more ...

Federal Judge in Georgia Grants Class Action Status to Prisoners’ Suit Against Global Tel*Link

Monday, November 30, 2020, was a big day for a group of Georgia prisoners suing their phone service provider, Global Tel*Link (GTL), over the company’s allegedly hidden policy of confiscating any unused funds in their accounts after 90 days.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg granted the suit class action status and smacked GTL with sanctions — including the cost of plaintiffs’ legal fees — after finding the firm had played fast and loose with legal rules. (See related story on this page.)

The case potentially sets the stage for a second large judgment against GTL in just a few months. In October 2020, a federal judge in New Jersey approved a $25 million settlement to satisfy a class-action suit filed in 2011 by prisoners in the state. In that case, the court found GTL guilty of receiving kickbacks from overly inflated prices, charging its prisoner customers as much as 100 times the going rate for a call (See PLN, Dec. 2020, p. 24).

The Georgia prisoners filed their suit in 2015, accusing GTL of violating the Federal Communication Act, as well state laws against breach of contract and unjust enrichment. At issue was the firm’s habit of cleaning out ...

Global Tel*Link Hit with Sanctions For Discovery Violations in Georgia Prison Call Class Action

The GTL business model required any individual who wished to communicate by telephone with an incarcerated person to first deposit money in a GTL account, from which the cost of each call was deducted. However, as noted by the judge in the Georgia litigation, “if a GTL customer has not had any activity in her account in ninety days, GTL takes whatever money is left in the account.” Plaintiffs alleged that this practice was not disclosed to them.

Federal court rules provide for “discovery,” in which each party can submit written questions, or “interrogatories,” and take sworn depositions of individuals with knowledge of the subject matter of the litigation, an expensive process. GTL produced thousands of pages of difficult-to-analyze documents, materials and testimony that purported to show that individuals depositing money were told ...

CoreCivic and Securus Technologies Agree to Pay $3.7 Million to Settle Suit for Illegally Recording Attorney-Client Conversations

The complaint was filed on August 31, 2016, by attorney Adam Crane on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated (Plaintiffs). It alleged that Defendants violated Kansas and Missouri wiretapping statutes (K.S.A. 2-2502, et seq. and RsMo 542.010, et seq.) when they recorded phone calls, video consultations, and in-person conversations between attorneys and their clients at the LDC.

Attorney David Johnson replaced Adam Crane as the named plaintiff in March 2018. At that time the complaint was amended to allege violations of the Federal Wiretap Act (18 U.S.C. § 2510 et seq.).

According to the complaint, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) is a for-profit corporation based in Maryland that operates state and federal prisons, jails and detention facilities, including the LDC. Securus Technologies is a private corporation that provides telephonic communication and recording equipment for CoreCivic at the LDC.
Plaintiffs alleged that, as ...

Scottish Prisoners Issued Mobile Phones During Pandemic

The SPS introduced mobile phones into its prison system as a means of maintaining contact with loved ones without having to stand in queues waiting on a public phone. “The SPS has supported the mental health of prisoners by continuing family contact with the introduction of virtual visits and mobile phone access, with appropriate safeguards,” said a Scottish government spokesperson. “The use of these new methods of contact will continue to provide support as we transition out of lockdown.”

The phones are simple devices that cannot access the internet or social media, cannot take pictures and are blocked from receiving incoming calls. Prisoners are allowed 20 phone numbers approved by administration, which they can call any time during the day, paid for by taxes.

Statistics show that recidivism is affected by close community ties and prisoners are more likely to reoffend when they lose contact with family and friends. Activists state that these mobile phones help to improve the quality of life ...