Monday, April 12, 2010

New payphones fully rolled out in Texas prisons, says vendor

Making Texas the last US state to provide regular phone access for prisoners, the vendor chosen to install Texas' prison phone system has completed installation at all of TDCJ's 112 units, the company reports in a press release:
Embarq Payphone Services, Inc. (EPSI) a subsidiary of CenturyTel, Inc. d/b/a CenturyLink and a leading provider of inmate communications services, has completed a significant phone system installation project for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

The project is the culmination of a multi-year effort which included a highly competitive bid process. The project was accomplished with technology partner Securus Technologies at all TDCJ state operated units across the state.

"The project with the TDCJ is unprecedented. Given the scope and complexity of the TDCJ contract, it is a significant achievement to deliver the service on time and within budget," said Paul Cooper, EPSI's general manager. "The project included installation of approximately 5,500 phones that will allow up to 120,000 inmates to make secure, controlled phone calls.

"Not only do Texas inmates have an affordable way to connect with friends and family members, but TDCJ now has a communications infrastructure that it can use to support its operations now and into the future," Cooper said, noting that EPSI installed new state-of-the-art network infrastructure within each TDCJ facility.


Amerloc said...


That doesn't make me a happy camper for reasons entirely unrelated to corrections:

it tells me that CenturyLink specializes in marginal markets, which means that I'm about to get raped in my own home county.


Bad enough that the only internet is satellite.

JP said...

Pay phones? I take it these are for the inmates to use when their cellphone batteries run low or something?

Marie T said...

In the age of unlimited phone service, $0.234 per min isn't cheap. It is a way for families to stay in touch. It's a privilege that is earned and initial profits go to victim's fund. Then the general fund will benefit so maybe your sales tax won't go up. Oh, I forgot Texans think families only count when it is "your family".

sunray's wench said...

JP ~ by "pay phones" they mean phones paid for by the friends and families on inmates who live within the US (except Alaska and Hawaii). Most of the guys Hubby is with did not even bother to register because they have no one on the outside who they can call.

Anonymous said...

My question is this...How long will it be before someone within the state gov or TDCJ itself will use this as yet another way to extract excessive amounts of money from the offenders families who have to pay for these calls. The feds provide for jobs for federal prisoners to earn a meager wage that goes on the books and thus pay (not collect) for their calls as made, rather than sucking money out of the wallets of the state offenders families. These are people who can little afford the ridiculous commissary 30% mark-up and so now they are being hit with $.234 (I think that's the amount, correct me if I'm wrong) per minute for calls. I mean, when a child is crying because he wants to talk to Daddy or Mama, how do you tell them, "only 3 minutes baby, so hurry up" when half these sweet children will sit with the phone to their little ears, a finger in the mouth, unsure of what to say to mommy or daddy. By the time they warm up to the whole phone thing, 4-5 minutes may have passed. I can see this thing having one of those good-evil labels. I like the federal system of menial-paid jobs (furniture maker, clothing maker) where the offender is paid for labor, one half goes to court costs, restitution, fines, etc and the other half is put on offenders books to pay for commissary, writing supplies and phone calls. The amount paid was less than a dollar per hour but it was a way to ease the burden on the families.

Anonymous said...

Pay phones are actually a good thing. I listen to calls and most are about day to day things that keep the offender in touch with his/her family.

Occasionally, we hear plans or admission of criminal activity. Reporting this activity immediately is rewarding in several ways.

Unfortunately, Embarq was NOT making enough money and they have allowed offenders to add phone contacts that are not on their visitation list. This change, although beneficial to Embarq and TDCJ will allow less control on who the inmate is contacting and will probably result in more criminal activity.

Additionally, TDCJ has directed that you can't suspend phone privileges except under very strict guidelines...which all fall to the bottom line.

Offenders are going to call and unfortunately, families will support the burden of these costs.

TDCJ EX said...

The phones rate are ; Collect )$0.26 instate and $0.43 out of state for a 15 minute call

Pre pay the same

Prepay debit $0 .234 and $ 0.387

At 15 minutes a cal that is $3.9 per call in state and $6.45 out of state

With debit $3.51 instate and $5.805 per 15 minute call It is true they will call and that their families will pay and be used a as source of revenue . Though I doubt very much state will give up any source of revenue states do not do that .

I like the idea of allowing people not on their visiting list to receive call that will help those who cannot visit stay in touch it is often he case in TDCJ . Drive hundreds of miles on a routine basis is not easy and a huge financial strain .sometime it is h also not possible people do work or have a besides vising a loved one in prison .

TDCJ could change this if of they do not make enough off phones . It is simple economics , if the phones are too expensive few will use them and TDCJ wil not have the projected revenue if more people use them at a lower rate TDCJ makes more money . It should not be hard to figure out . Apparently policy makers have become very short sighted or are looking at which way the political wind blows instead of being piratical and actually doing something that is worth while and well thought out . Also if more people make receive calls at a lower rat more money is made . if TDCJ does not limit minutes and allows longer cal with lower rate they make more to make it very simple . If a ex convict with a BA can figure this out I am sure that those guys with MBA's can .

Let them make calls as as long as they a re not a STG or other problem . In fact let them makwethme to cell phones the calls are all recorded, so what is the big deal ? Those who know what to listne for already k ow whena message is being passed regardless of what kind of phone it is on and itshould be easier ot locate those involved .Cell phone calls can be tracked and traced

As for criminal activity prisoners did that long before pay phones and probably will continue to do so with or with out them . One easy way to deal with it is legalize and regulated drugs . the prime source I of funding most gangs .and apparently the criminal justice system . I highly doubt that there will be any more criminal activity it is already going on and those who do it will do so one way or another those who don't will benefit from the phones

I also know that a cell or rec restriction will prevent a prisoner form using the phones even for a minor case . At least it has been going on on many units as bosses will say being in the day room where the phones are is rec and violating a cell or rec restriction . Amazing how bosses come up with rules that are not official policy .

sunray's wench said...

And let them call overseas too. Like TDCJ-Ex says, the calls are recorded anyway, and if you remove the collect option and make those calls all prepaid, at even $1 per minute, People will still make sure the money is there and Embarq will still get their share.

There is absolutely no reason why inmates cannot call overseas now except the Legislators lack of understanding about family demographics and geographical social mobility in the 21st century. You cannot even use the excuse that those overseas might speak in a *gasp* foreign language. There is nothing to stop anyone doing that inside Texas right now, or writing in a foreign language in their letters.

sunray's wench said...

Anon @10.11 ~ where did you get the information that those not on offender's visitation lists will be able to register? There is nothing about it on the TDCJ web page relating to Offender phone calls

We have been working with Embarq and TDCJ to get my husband's mother registered. She is on his visitation list but lives in a Care Home who own the phone line, and who obviously are not on his list. This still has not been completed yet though.

TDCJ EX said...

Sunray I cannot find it either and I have not heard of it . If the Anon is a TDCJ employee who monitors calls they might have knowledge that TDCJ will be doing this I doubt Embarq will be able to do this with out TDCJ permission . I am going to guess that TDCJ specifiably said no overseas calls due to European groupies helping “the guys on the row” do things such as get cell phones and assist them in their websites among other activities that every one incarcerated in TDCJ pays for as collective punishment

Though the calls are all recorded and some are listened to . I am guess those are mostly people who are suspected of being involved in some sort of illicit activity . I remember that just speaking to another convict in Spanish is a case they consider it a “threat to security “ because bosses usually don't understand it . It is just a excuse because of their low hiring standards . I would think that being able to speak and understand Spanish should be part of the job requirements for a boss or rank . in states such as Texas that boarder Mexico and incarcerates lots of Hispanics .

I highly doubt that the average prisoner speaks many European languages outside of Spanish . In many European nations English is a second language so there should not be a big issue . That is why I think the primarily European death row groupies are why TDCJ is reluctant to allow overseas calls ..on aside note I am curious why no interest in the man in Saudi Arabia that was or is goingot be executed for sorcery ?

If TDCJ would figure out that the more calls people make the more money they take in if rates are lower they can take in more . People will call more and those who now do not make call will if they allow people not on their visiting list to receive calls . There are many prisoners in TDCJ who have lost all freeworld contact and often rely on a so called pen pal ' . One way or another a convict will place a add seeking them for all kinds of reasons . Some good some not so good .

I think there is some confusion about the pre pay plan one allows any one to pre pay for a prisoner the other is a contract with CBS that you pay for certain amount of callas to your number and once the prisoner hits that limit the have to wait until the next month . So I doubt people are choosing it often unless they have to limit class for one reason or another.

Sunray I hope you understand I am not saying you a re a European Groupie I am aware of your situation

sunray's wench said...

TDCJ-Ex ~ no, you and I both know I don't fall into that camp.

I suspect a few inmates speak German though, for reasons other than them writing to a European pal.

I too am surprised that being at least conversationally fluent in Spanish is not part of the hiring requirements for TDCJ.

TDCJ EX said...

If TDCJ were to require their employees be at least conversational , read and write Spanish it would greatly reduce the number of potential candidates a nay of their units are in very rural primarily non Hispanic sometimes deeply racist areas . Also it would probably cause a increase in base pay as well .

In the US most bit not all bilingual people out side of second generation Hispanics are college educated and can command a higher wage they are also a different demographic than the current one that is typical found working in any prisoner the US at the boss or rank level . Then It would prqvly make it very difficult to run a prison and pay the wages fro a work force with all the education and skills a boss or rank should have if we really want to both rehabilitate and run safe prisons .

TDCJ employment requirements in practice amount to being18 high school diploma or GED ,US Citizenship or legal residency, having a clean criminal history and passing a drug test . TDCJ officials might claim otherwise but that is what the reality is .

Yes a small percentage of prisoners speak German and it not to write a pen pal . It is the ugly racist side of the US and worse. I suspect and h that GI and STG knows this though at least think they do .
I cannot imagine TDCJ does not have people who speak and read Spanish fluently .At the same time I would not be surprised if they did not have many and or they do not work in areas that being bilingual is useful .

Hell yeah Sunray I know you are not a groupie and we both see them as harmful and often becoming distraction from very real problems . I suppose focusing on those problems would take the attention of both the groupies and their men on the row We can't have that now can we !

Customized labels said...

There is absolutely no reason why inmates cannot call overseas now except the Legislators lack of understanding about family demographics and geographical social mobility in the 21st century. You cannot even use the excuse that those overseas might speak in a *gasp* foreign language. There is nothing to stop anyone doing that inside Texas right now, or writing in a foreign language in their letters.