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

California Class Action Lawsuit Targets Unauthorized Prison Phone Charges

A lawsuit currently pending in a California state court claims that certain providers of prison telephone services have improperly charged for collect calls from correctional institutions that were not authorized or accepted by the called party. The lawsuit, Condes v. Evercom Systems, Inc., Alameda County (California) Superior Court Case No. 2002054255, was filed in 2002 by three San Francisco Bay Area law firms _ the Law Offices of Edward C. Casey, Jr., the Law Offices of John W. Allured and Bramson, Plutzik, Mahler & Birkhaeuser, LLP.

The plaintiffs in the action are three criminal defense lawyers _ Elena Condes, Bicka Barlow and Brian Getz _ and an accountant, Christopher Fank. They allege in their complaint that defendants Evercom Systems, Inc., Global Tel*Link Corporation, T-Netix Telecommunications Services, Inc. and ILD Telecommunications, Inc. improperly charged them and other persons for prisoner collect calls that they had not authorized or accepted _ including calls that were received when nobody was present to answer the phone and calls received by telephone answering machines or voicemail. Also named as defendants in the action are Verizon California, Inc., Pacific Bell Telephone Co. and SBC Communications, Inc.

The plaintiffs have asserted claims based on California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL), Business & Professions Code § 17200 et seq., which prohibits unfair, unlawful and deceptive business practices, as well as common law claims for unjust enrichment. The complaint asks the Court to allow the case to proceed as a class action on behalf of all persons who were improperly charged for prisoner calls that either originated in or were made to residents of California, and requests the Court to award the class members restitution of wrongful charges, damages, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees and costs of suit. In addition to seeking class certification, plaintiffs also assert their UCL claims on behalf of the general public of the State of California and affected members thereof. The Court has not yet decided whether or not to certify a plaintiff class.

Although the plaintiffs' attorneys have limited their claims in the Condes case to California-related calls, they believe that the practice of charging for unauthorized collect calls was not limited to California and they are investigating whether or not residents of other states may have similar claims. The attorneys for the plaintiffs would like to speak with anyone, either in California or elsewhere, who has information about the practices of prison and jail phone carriers or has been charged for a prisoner phone call that wasn't accepted or authorized.

In general, prisoner collect calls require positive acceptance by the called party. Some prison phone systems require that a particular key on the telephone keypad be pressed to indicate acceptance of the call, while others use voice recognition technology and require the recipient of the call to state orally that the call is accepted. In either case, if the recipient of the call does not affirmatively indicate acceptance of the call, it should not be billed. Prisoner collect calls are usually billed in a separate section of the phone bill, and the name of the carrier _ for example, Evercom or T-Netix _ is usually listed on the page. In some cases, the improper calls have been of short duration _ one or two minutes _ while in other instances, call recipients have reported being improperly charged for unauthorized calls that may extend as long as 15 or 20 minutes.

Anyone who has been improperly charged for an prisoner call or has information about the practices of prison phone companies should call Edward C. Casey, Jr. at (510) 251-2300 or e-mail him at

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

Related legal case

Condes v. Evercom Systems Inc.