It’s not difficult to understand that the families of people who commit crimes across the country are usually in the lower socioeconomic strata. There is a prevailing sense that if you are poor in this country, the only way you can make money is to scam it or steal it. Many of the people who try to scam or steal get caught and thrown into prison. But the scamming and stealing does not stop there.
You’re probably unfamiliar with the company Global Tel-Link. According to PrisonTalk Forums, they are a $500 million per year telecommunications company. But you’re not going to contract them to provide you with Internet service or phone. They only exist to provide telephone services to prisoners inside the prison and their families. And they have a bigger scam (watch this YouTube video) going than any of the convicts ever did. And here you can find the plight of poor families with loved ones in prison.
Global Tel-Link is the only way for these families to communicate with their loved ones on the inside. Global Tel-Link ensures this by getting government contracts to provide telephone service while promising that same government kickbacks in the form of commissions off every call. The price is then passed on to the families of the prisoners with calls costing well over one dollar per minute.
This kind of squeeze can really crush a lower socioeconomic family. Many families cannot even afford to set up an account with Global Tel-Link, and the unfortunate few that do have to deal with terrible customer service and calls that are often dropped. This is a stunning example of corporate welfare, where the government outsources services with exclusive contracts to make certain companies wealthy by ensuring a lack of competition. It’s just another example in the United States of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer. Visit https://action.aclu.org/global-tel and see what you can do.
Ever since Police in Pennsylvania arrested Mr. Anthony Kofalt for failing to pay for 21 boxes of Whitestrips after walking out of a Walmart, his wife, Heather, has by far spent more than $3,000 – an average of $60 an ever week- only on phone calls made to prison.
It was not until the 1990s; inmates would receive and place unlimited calls to family members, friends, and lawyers at calling rates that were almost equivalent to calling rates outside of prison walls. But now as revealed on prisontalk forums, the prison phone call system is a $1.2-billiob-a-year company that is dominated but few monopolistic businesses that manage the calling rates and fees in exorbitant fees by the regular commercial providers of service. It is now the most considerable business – a 400 million jail and prison phone calls that came to a total of six billion minutes of calling in 2014 – that has caught the equity private firm’s eye.
After years of constant complaint (watch this YouTube campaign video) from numerous prison-right unions, friends and family members of the inmates, the Federal Communications Commission according to PR Newswire‘s report is set to investigate the industry’s financial intricacies, which has been unregulated for an extended period. The state and local prison systems will exchange their exclusive contracts at the core of the inquiry.
The Keefe Group has been named scandal at the state prison level. According to cdispatch.com, it started when a pair of businessmen from the Gainesville, Florida were indicted for bribery. The two men openly admitted to paying bribes to state officials in the prison system as well as high ranking people in the Keefe Commissary. Keefe is a company based in St. Louis that makes snakes and other useful items for inmates in the Florida prison system.
The first man who admits to paying bribes to Keefe is Joseph Arthur Deese. He is 38 years old. He made a guilty plea to bribing James Crosby and Allen Wayne Clark who are both officials in the prison system at the highest level. The other man to enter a guilty plea is Edward Lee Dugger. Dugger is 64 years old. he is the owner of an insurance agency located in Gainesville. The two men formed a close relationship with Corrections Secretary James Crosby more than a decade ago and they used the relationship to commit their crimes.
Crosby and Dugger interacted with each other at the Police Benevolent Association, which is a union organization that represents prison guards, and other prison employees. At this time Crosby began doing Business with Keefe Commissary and so he introduced Dugger and Deese to Keefe executives. This is where the corruption began.
Dugger and Deese agreed to pay Jack Donnelly who as an executive officer at Keefe $260,000 a year from the profits they generated through their corrupt scheme. They opened canteens that would provide services to all the prisons in Florida with the explicit intention of overcharging, and hiding money to pocket for themselves. Despite Keefe Commissary’s role in the crime, it is unlikely to face any criminal charges because Keefe executives have many political connections in Florida. http://www.prisoncensorship.info/article/fight-keefe-food-group-corruption/
For more information about the Keefe Group and the services they provide visit their website at http://www.keefegroup.com and their vendor profile on corrections.com.
Families of Hampden County, Massachusetts inmates don’t have to strain their budgets anymore to stay in contact with their loved ones, thanks to the FCC. A 15 minute call used to cost $17, now inmates can talk for 30 minutes for only $3.60. GlobalTel Link, the inmate telephone service provider, was paying the jail a 74 percent commission on the cost of each call, which amounted to approximately $89,000 per month in the jail’s coffers according to an article posted on MassLive.com.
Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr., who runs the jail, was not happy with the FCC’s ruling; he even went so far as to threaten to eliminate the inmate’s telephone service. Responding to a MassLive inquiry, the communications officer for the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department said that it costs the department $165,487 per year in administrative costs to maintain telephone services for inmates and the remainder of the money from commissions is used to fund various programs for inmates. Critics, however, cite the bloated Hamden County Sheriff’s Department large, 27-person administrative staff, each of whom earns a six-figure salary, as the reason the Sheriff needed the commissions from GlobalTel Link.
Inmates still have access to telephones to contact their families, however, there is no word yet if the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department will maintain the programs that that were funded by the high commissions.
Dallas-based Securus Technologies is proving to be the leader in inmate communications technology with its latest platform. The new VOIP protocol is taking the civil and justice industry by storm.
The technology, considered the largest in the world, is steadily breaking records with its audio and video call service. The prisons that use Securus, use the service exclusively. This saves time and money, and it also makes using the platform much easier. Stricter security is used with the VOIP service, and everyone making and receiving calls are subject to scrutiny.
The Securus system utilizes hundreds of applications, and any prison is equipped to use the platform. All individuals involved are pleased with the platform. Inmates say the VOIP helps them stay in contact with their loved ones. Due to security measures, all inmate calls, excluding the ones with their attorney, are kept on file for 10 years. This is a much-needed measure in the event a situation arises and records are needed.
The system is equipped with other safety measures including a monitoring system to report unauthorized use. It also provides automatic updates. Protocol breaches are also picked up by the system. The new and improved communications system has stopped a number of crimes.
Inmate communications is an important aspect of an inmate’s rehabilitation process. Inmates who communicate with their relatives are even better placed to rehabilitate faster and to have a reduced chance of recidivism. Communication helps inmates and their relatives to catch up with each other’s lives.
Despite the importance of inmate communications, there are a lot of issues that face the industry. To begin with, many jails sign contracts with a single service provider who takes the monopolistic advantage to set high call rates. Users are forced to accept the burden since they lack cheaper options.
Another issue reported by pissedconsumer.com facing the industry is scammers. Apparently, some companies use the frustration often encountered by families trying to communicate with incarcerated relatives to scam them. The firms usually ask for high account opening rates and service charges. Even after family members struggle to cover the expenses, the companies fail to connect them to their incarcerated relations.
Another case involves dropped calls. When a call goes through, the caller may experience a call drop due to different reasons. In many cases, call drops prevail when one cannot be connected due to incompatibility issues of the communication devices. In such cases, it has been reported that inmate communications service providers do not refund the money charged to the caller.
Inmate communication service providers are profit making entities. Without proper regulations, they tend to charge their clients unfairly. In some cases, they have been reported to make payments to correctional officers to have their contracts renewed.
IC Solutions is a leading provider of inmate communications and inmate management services. The firm offers a broad range of communication services such as video visitation, account set up, and phone calls.
IC Solutions’ services are significantly cheap compared to other inmate communication providers. To improve their user experience, they have a 24-hour customer support center that handles issues on billing, payments, and opening accounts.
In October 2014, an incisive new podcast reminded American audiences that radio journalism is still one of the most compelling mediums for news reporting, investigation and social justice.
Serial is a podcast that was created as a companion to This American Life, the acclaimed public radio program that also ran for two seasons as a series on the Showtime cable television channel. According to PR News Serial has been widely acclaimed for bringing out issues that show deep dysfunction within American institutions in charge of delicate affairs; specifically overzealous criminal prosecutions and the strange approach to under-the-table diplomacy during wartime.
During the first season of Serial, each episode briefly introduced listeners to Global Tel-Link as the provider of prepaid calling services from prison telephones. With about 40 hours of recorded calls made from prison, it is safe to say that Global Tel-Link was instrumental to the production of Serial’s debut season.
Shortly after the final episode of Serial’s first season, a report published by financial news outlet Bloomberg estimated the cost of the prison phone calls used by the Serial production team. At 89 cents per minute and a connection fee of $3.95 per call, Global Tel-Link pocketed around $2,500, although the company did not respond to inquiries by Joshua Brustein of Bloomberg.
Although Serial did not make Global Tel-Link’s exorbitant calling rates a part of their investigation, the company has come under fire by various news reporting outlets and the Federal Communications Commission. As a result, per-minute rate caps went into effect; however according to Al.com, Global Tel-Link and other carriers that provided phone services to the imprisoned have retaliated with lawsuits and excessive service fees.
Companies such as Global Tel-Link keep the lucrative prison phone racket going in the United States; perhaps this industry and its players could be the focus of a future Serial production.
Keefe Group has been serving the prison industry since 1975 through its various affiliates by supplying personal hygiene products, clothing, and electronics. The company is also responsible for providing telecommunication and inmate communication solutions across the US. From footwear to computer software to jail management systems, the correctional industry has a myriad of needs and the Keefe Group has effectively capitalized on that. With affiliates such as Keefe Commissary Network, Advanced Technologies Group, and Keefe Supply Company, the group has maintained a monopoly for quite some time.
Over its years of operations, the Keefe Group has come under scrutiny with various allegations coming up. The most notable is the corruption scandal that involved Ex-Commissioner, Chris Epps and Cecil McCrory. Charges were brought against these two when it was discovered that the then-commissioner was directing contracts towards McCrory’s G.T Enterprises. The connection here is that Centric Group, the parent company of the Keefe Group, acquired G.T Enterprises. There have been other corruption allegations since then, but the Keefe Group has never faced charges.
Some prisoners and their relatives have complained about the high prices of products and the domination of the Keefe Group. As much as commissary services are necessary for the smooth-running of prison facilities, I believe that there should be a way for the system to work with private contractors without burdening inmates and their families. One recommendation of improving the situation that I agree with is to have competitive bids for contracts that exceed $100,000.
The Keefe Group performance is not without upsides that have benefited the prison system, though. One notable achievement is its packaging services that have allowed inmates to get food supplies that no longer come in hazardous metal cans. Keefe Group also has exclusive rights to sell song downloads, music players, prepaid debit cards, and process inmate deposits. For more information about Keefe Group, visit corrections.com to have a company overview and read the news article on cdispatch.com.
More and more prisons are turning to video visitation as a way to minimize physical contact with visiting population. While this may relieve some of the stress from prison officials, but it causes a lot of controversy between inmates and inmate families. Many inmates thrive on the ability to have physical contact with their family and enjoy a friendly face to face visit. Unfortunately, many families are putting a stop to this, which is causing quite a bit of tension and confusion.
Even the staff in these facilities are conflicted about whether or not removing contact visits would be beneficial to the facility, but what will it cause when it comes to inmate behavior?
Here are what staff members and other power that be think about the changes.
The Positive Effects of Physical Contact Visits
Contact with family is essential to the rehabilitation process. This is the only physical contact inmates have with other people and it can be extremely beneficial to the human psyche. Many prison officials openly state that no contact visits do not decrease the likelihood of contraband entering the prison. Prisoners still find a way to smuggle drugs in. Removing contact visits creates more stress and increases the likelihood that prisoners will find another method of smuggling in larger amounts of drugs.
Many prison officials are taking the side of keeping contact visits, but increasing security and after visit searches to ensure there is no contraband smuggled in.
Other security personnel feels that screening and checking visitors better will be a more beneficial way to handle the contraband issue. This is because inmates look forward to visitation, which causes them to have better behavior when they are walking on the compound.
Allowing face to face inmate visitations greatly reduces the violence inside of prison walls. Many security officials believe that removing face to face visitations will increase the number of violent acts inside of prisons, as well as an increase in inmate physical attacks leading to death.
While reducing face to face visitations may reduce visitor to inmate contribution transmission, while others feel that the violence inside of prisons will increase dramatically.
Global Tel-Link is a communications company that many jails and prisons use so that inmates can call home. However as reported by PR News, it’s an expensive service, and it just keeps getting more expensive with each passing month. There is a loading fee of $25, which is highway robbery (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs3WHNzOcj4) in itself. You shouldn’t have to pay a fee on top of the additional charges that the company makes you pay just to talk to your loved one who is in jail.
One time, my boyfriend tried to call five times with each call failing after I answered. When you answer the call and accept it, your account is charged. Even if you don’t talk to the person, the money for the call is deducted. I called customer service, and no one would refund the money that was spent for a non-existent call. After talking to a supervisor, I finally got most of the money back after they charged a $5 refund fee. It also took about a month for the money to go back on my debit card. When the money was back on the card, my boyfriend was out of jail. Global Tel-Link is the most frustrating company around and should be investigated for it’s corrupt communications efforts. Read more article about GTL and their practices on al.com.