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Prepaid Telephone Credits Theft Leads to Change of Provider in Wisconsin Jail

On September 21, 2011, the Lake County, Wisconsin, Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to change the telephone service provider at the Lake County Jail from Public Communications Service (PCS) of Los Angeles to Telemate, LLC of Ontario, Canada. PCS, which provides telephone services at over 200 jails and prisons in the U.S., had been paying the county 47 % of its gross revenue. In exchange for the monopoly in providing prisoner telephone services, Telemate, which counts 190 lockups in 40 states and two Canadian provinces among its customers, will pay 56% without significantly raising rates from those charged by PCS. According to Lake County Police Commander William Patterson, the county should clear about a quarter million dollars a year from the prisoner telephone service payments if the prisoner telephone traffic remains the same.

Another reason for the change is charges of theft of telephone credits under the personal identification number (PIN) system used by PCS. In 2009, about 30 prisoners reported theft of credits. A county police investigation failed to turn up sufficient evidence to charge anyone, but they suspected that other prisoners were involved in the thefts. The problems went away after PCS issued new PINs to the prisoners. However, it was also discovered that someone was attempting to perpetrate fraud when unsecured blank checks of the type used to reimburse released prisoners for unused telephone credits were found along with evidence that someone had tried to pass fraudulent jail checks at local businesses.

Telemate uses a biometric voice-recognition system which should prevent theft of telephone credits. The jail has switched to reimbursing unused telephone credits via debit card instead of issuing checks. That should prevent jail check fraud, provided the blank debit cards are kept secure.


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