Friday, August 15, 2008

TBCJ finally approves expanded prisoner phone access

AP brings word that the Texas Board of Criminal Justice yesterday finally passed new rules, discussed earlier on Grits here, allowing most TDCJ inmates more liberal access to telephones in prison. Now the contractor just has to install phone infrastructure in Texas' 106 prisons, no small task but one which should be completed within the year. TDCJ originally had hoped the phone installation would be complete by next month, but those deadline have long ago passed. Said AP:

The Texas Board of Criminal Justice has voted to allow prison inmates to use telephones on a prepaid and collect-call basis.

The action Thursday ends the nation's last ban on regular phone use by state prisoners.

Embarq, a Kansas-based communications company, was awarded a seven-year contract to put the phone service into place.

About 120,000 Texas inmates will each be allowed to purchase up to 120 minutes of phone time a month. The privilege will not be extended to an estimated 36,000 inmates with disciplinary problems or gang affiliations, or those on death row.

Currently, most state prisoners are allowed only one five-minute collect call every 90 days.

The new system will allow calls of up to 15 minutes.

Texas is the last U.S. state not to give prisoners regular phone access.

State officials have long feared that "allowing the inmates to have access to telephones could allow them to continue their criminal enterprises outside the prison walls," said Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

"There also was a concern that they also would be able to contact their victims. But technology has advanced to a point where those concerns are really no longer valid."

Embarq's proposal includes technology that will allow prison officials to monitor and record calls, except those between inmates and their attorneys.

Calls will be limited to friends and family on the prisoner's approved list of visitors. Calls to victims or their families will be prohibited.

Inmates or their families can prepay for telephone calls at rates of 23 cents for in-state calls and 39 cents for out-of-state calls. Collect calls will be 26 cents and 43 cents, respectively.

International and cell phone calls will not be allowed.

A spokesman for Embarq said the system will be phased in at more than 100 prisons over the next year.

The Texas Legislature approved phone service for prisons last year, with proponents calling the easily granted and retracted privilege "a marvelous tool for discipline." Fees from prisoners and families will pay for the system and generate additional revenue streams for the state:
The company, which handles prison phone contracts in five other states, will keep 60 percent of the Texas revenues generated, with the remainder to be divided between the state's general fund and the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
This is good news that TDCJ is finally moving forward. Texas may be the last state in the union to offer phone access to well-behaved prisoners, but for my money, better late than never.


Anonymous said...

"calls will be prohibited to victims and thier families"

So what happens when the 'victim' is percieved to be the family of the inmate, yet the family wish to receive calls?

Anonymous said...

Scott; use your skilled research methods and look at the timeline of paid telephones studies in TDC/TDCJ. The technology was there when intially studied. Some of those that were totally against this system are now being paid to get it cranked up! And they did it. Let the good times roll!

The cost of the calls for the inmate (his or her family) will be high and everybody on the outside will make lots of money.

One minor observation; no more free phone calls. That is sad for those that earned the calls and will not be able to afford them. BTW, the cell phones will continue to be hauled in by the POS that are being hired from under their rocks.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8/16/2008/ 10:53:00 AM
There never were "free" phonecalls. They were collect calls with high prices every 90 days , if permitted. Now we will have calling cards for direct calls to families only who are on the visitation list of the prisoner . The price will be 25 cents per minute . It beats the price of gas to drive to the prisons.

Helga Dill, Chair, TX CURE

Anonymous said...

Hay Helga or should I say Anon 8:24, Retired 2004 is not anonymous.And another thing somebody is going to make alot of money on the phone calls.

Anonymous said...

Big mistake. Crimes will be committed on these phones and if we are unlucky, someone will be killed because of these phones.

TDCJ knows better. Hey, how about privatizing the parole board? It couldn't be worse than the current situation.

Anonymous said...

to anon @ 7.27 ~ but also, a little girl of 2 who cannot write to her daddy or read his letters will still be able to hear his voice if she happens to live the other side of the state and her mummy cant afford to take her to see him. A seriously ill mother can hear her son or daughter's voice for the last time, even though she is not well enough to make the trip to visit.
Its NOT just about the inmates.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Dill: As late as 2004 some inmates received free phone calls.
Death in the family, serious illness of immediate family members and other issues that impacted inmates personal life were grounds for authorization.

I did not know any warden that did not authorize these special free calls.

Prison preachers supervised these
calls on a daily basis.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

I am gald that something is being done, but my son was in NTISF (North Texas Intra-State Facility) outside of Ft. Worht. His collect call were $8.60 each. He finally purchaed a phone card, but the cost went from $10 for 15 minutes to $20 for 15 minutes, so we decided he'd used the phone cards to check on his wife (she uses a cell phone) and call me collect. My monthly phone bill was between $103-269 depending on whether or not he was receiving his seizures meds and feeling ok. I had him call often to make sure that his medical condition was being monitored and he wads getting his med regularly.

Anonymous said...

Hey retired 2004, call me whatever you want , someone is already making a lot of money on the prison system so why not benefit the families and the victims ?
A sad system that only allows calls when someone is sick or dies.
Anonymous 8/17/08 07:27:00PM, no one can commit crimes with this system w/o being found out,it is much safer than having contraband cell phones as it is now.

Helga Dill, Chair, TX CURE

Anonymous said...

Ms. Dill:The persons I referenced were those that were in the Lege and former prison administrators who are now making big bucks as lobbyists. They used you and other organizations to support their effort. It worked.

Retired 2004 said...

I am glad the phones will be put in Texas prisons because my boyfriend is unfortunately too far to visit and we are both really looking forward to being able to be alittle closer by the phone calls because even though the mail is good for us, it takes quite a few days to get from me in Houston to him in Pampa Texas! We both are greatful for the upcoming phone system!

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