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In battle over prison phone rates, who wins and loses is not always clear cut

Inmates and their family members across the country have long complained about the high rates that they’re forced to pay for outgoing phone calls in the nation’s prisons. In some cases, such as in the state of Arizona, inmates are forced to pay up to $1.50 per minute on outgoing phone calls. At these rates, hardly any inmates can afford to stay in touch with their family members, leading to many inmates being forced to withdraw into the milieu of prison life.


Unfortunately, many studies have shown that inmates who are not able to stay in touch with their loved ones on the outside are far more likely to experience higher rates of recidivism as well as behavioral problems within the prison itself. Many of these inmates ultimately end up losing hope, committing serious infractions within the prison and creating serious security threats for both inmates and prison staff.


At the same time, it has been shown that inmates who are able to access cheap means of staying in contact with their family members and loved ones on the outside of prison are able to also experience much lower rates of recidivism and pose far less danger to the institutions in which they are incarcerated.


However, many of the prisons where inmates are forced to pay higher rates are reliant on that income. For example, in the state of Louisiana, Securus Technologies, one of the largest providers of prison communications services in the United States, pays up to 75 percent of all money that it makes on outgoing phone calls back to the institutions in which it operates. This provides a significant source of revenues to the institutions, allowing for safer and more effective operation of those prisons.


In fact, Securus provides up to $500 million per year in commissions to the commercial institutions where it is allowed to operate.