Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Nebraska Prisons Get Progressive Phone Contract

by Matthew T. Clarke

In February, 2003, The Nebraska Department of Corrections (DOC) has contracted with AT&T to set up what may be the most progressive prisoner phone service in the United States. The five-year contract makes AT&T the sole provider of local and long distance services, associated equipment, maintenance and administrative services to the approximately 3,700 prisoners in the Community Corrections Centers at Lincoln and Omaha, the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center at Lincoln, Hastings Corrections Center, Lincoln Correction Center, Nebraska Correction Center for Women, Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility at Omaha, Nebraska State Penitentiary, Omaha Correctional Center, Work Ethic Camp at McCook, and the Youth Rehab Treatment Centers at Geneva and Kearney.

AT&T operates more than 49,000 prisoner phone stations at over 3,000 U.S. prisons and jails. AT&T invented prisoner "collect calling only," 23 years ago. However, the contract calls for AT&T to offer the dialer a choice of calling collect or charging the call to a debit account. The ability of prisoners to call using a debit account has two favorable features: a 20% lower call rate and the ability to place international calls (which may not be done collect).

Prisoners are limited to 15 minutes of phone calls a day. The DOC is not accepting a commission. This allows for remarkably low rates. Local collect calls cost $1.00 regardless of length. Local debit calls cost 80¢, regardless of length. Each non-local call involves a service charge plus a call rate. The service charge for collect calls is 75¢; for debit calls it is 60¢. Thus, the charge on calls is as follows: 75¢ + 7¢/min (collect) or 60¢ + 5.6¢/min (debit) for a non-local call within the same area code; 75¢ + 10¢/min (collect) or 60¢ + 8¢/min (debit) for non-local calls outside the same area code, but within NE; 75¢ + 20¢/min (collect) or 60¢ + 16¢/min (debit) for out-of-state calls; and 50¢ per international unit (debit only). International calls to Canada, Mexico, Europe, and most South American, Central American, and Asian countries cost one international unit per minute. Very remote countries and those lacking modern digital telephone technology cost up to five international units a minute.

The prisoner phone system has digital switching with sophisticated security features. All calls are digitally recorded and the recordings backed up and archived for years. CDs can be made of the recordings for evidentiary purposes. The system detects call-forwarding and 3-way calling. Once detected, the call can be automatically disconnected or its recording automatically flagged for review. The system also automatically blocks prisoners from dialing additional digits once the call is placed.

AT&T provides the DOC with monitoring stations and the DOC has exclusive control over blocking some or all of the phone stations. The DOC will be able to block individual prisoners and individual telephone numbers. The system can alert monitors to calls of specific prisoners, allowing real time monitoring. Recipients of collect calls have the option of hearing the rates before accepting or even blocking all future calls from the prison. Attorney telephone numbers are identified from a database and supposedly will not be recorded or monitored. Each facility will be provided with a TDD unit for hearing-impaired prisoners.

AT&T says it will assist recipients of calls in managing their telephone bills. Released prisoners would receive a refund for the remainder of their debit account. Prisoners calling lists, which -may contain up to 20 numbers, may be updated every 90 days. The recipient of a call can accept it using a rotary-dial phone. Rates will be locked in for the entire 5-year run of the contract.

Source: AT&T Contract

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login