Ohio inmates and loved ones will notice a 75 percent drop in the cost of phone rates in April as the state gives up a $15 million kickback.
In the past week, prison officials signed an amendment with Global Tel Link to eliminate the state's commission, effectively reducing an in-state 15-minute call from about $5.50 to 75 cents. The change means Ohio now has one of the lowest rates for inmate phone calls instead of one of the highest, according to Prison Legal News research.
Out-of-state phone calls were capped by the FCC last year, making a 15-minute call no more than $3.75 compared with previous charges up to $17.30 in some states ($16.97 in Ohio), according to research from Prison Legal News.
The state gave up a $15 million commission, which was the highest in the nation, to reduce in-state phone costs. The revenue loss is expected to be replaced in the budget proposal.
Prison Director Gary Mohr has heralded the change as a way to keep inmates better connected to family and loved ones by making phone calls less expensive. Maintaining close connections with loved ones is viewed as one factor in improving inmate behavior and rehabilitation.
The amended contract is effective from April 1 through Feb. 26, 2018, and also requires Global Tel Link to replace all 2,000 inmate phones and add 500 more by the end of the year.
Global Tel Link and the state also will be piloting a mobility tablet system in one prison this year, according to the amended contract. The tablet will allow outbound voice calls and the ability to send, but not receive, other content.
Also in the contract is the addition of five full-time intelligence analysts and cell phone forensic machines that can retrieve data from contraband cell phones.