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Missouri Prisoner Calls Get Cheaper; But Lowest Bid Rejected

The competitive bid process is normally used by state agencies to compel companies to compete with lower bids while providing the same service. Usually, the lowest bid prevails. In the case of providing collect calls for Missouri prisons, the contract was awarded to a company that provided a bid that was higher than three other competitors.

Selecting the higher bidder will cost family and friends of Missouri prisoners about $3.4 million a year more than if the lowest bid had been accepted. Why allow this money to go into the pockets of providers? asks Sen. Maida Coleman.

Prison Officials say the new provider will still result in a savings of about $2 million a year over the current service. The new contract was awarded to Public Communications Services (PCS).

PCS bid charges 10 cents a minute for long distance calls, compared to 7 cents a minute under the cheapest bid. A local call under PCS will be $4.50 plus a $1 surcharge for a 35 minute call. In contrast, the lowest bidder, Consolidated Communications Public Services, proposed 95 cents for local calls regardless of the duration.

Prison officials justify high prisoner phone calls on the need for equipment to record and monitor those calls. Equipment the phone companies are willing to provide for free in exchange for the contracts. Often, however, prison systems receive a kickback of profits from prisoner calls. In the long run, society loses by degraded family relationships that make recidivism more likely.

Source: The St. Louis Dispatch

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