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New Mexico Caps High Telephone Rates

The governor of New Mexico signed a bill in February 2001, prohibiting prisons from profiting on prisoners' phone calls, which was exceeding 10 times the regular competitive rates with a 15 minute call costing up to $20. The Public Communications Services, a Los Angeles-based carrier kicked back 48.25% of their gross profits to the New Mexico Department of Corrections (DOC) as part of their contract that amounted to over a million dollars a year. Robert Perry the secretary of corrections for New Mexico says that the high rates are justifiable, with the money being used for monitoring calls by prisoners along with anger-management courses, plus monitoring devices used to track prisoners upon their release.

Carol Royal, founder of Families Advocating Correctional Effective Services, (FACES) was one of the factors in the lowering of the high phone rates. Her persistence and determination on campaigning against "(DOC) which as she saw it, was acting (like an evil empire) and gouging prisoners' families," paid off when the bill was passed in the states legislature.

The New Mexico legislature enacted the following statute:

"A. A contract to provide inmates with access to telecommunications services in a correctional facility or jail shall be negotiated and awarded to an entity that meets the correctional facility's or jail's technical and functional requirements for services, and that provides the lowest cost of service to inmates or any person who pays for inmate telecommunication services.

B. A contract to provide inmates with access to telecommunications services in a correctional facility or jail shall not include a commission or other payment to the operator of the correctional facility or jail based upon amounts billed by the telecommunications provider for telephone calls made inmates in the correctional facility or jail." See: NMSA 33-14-1.

After negotiations with the Los Angeles-based carrier, DOC reduced rates between 18% and 54%. A pending class action suit is challenging the old rates. [ PLN , May 2000]

Source: Wall Street Journal

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