Delaware: Drop in Prison Phone Rates Called a “Drop in the Bucket”
by Derek Gilna
Delaware’s prison phone rates will be reduced as a result of a new contract entered into between the state Department of Correction (DOC) and Global Tel*Link (GTL) that will run from July 21, 2015 through June 30, 2018. Rates for local calls will drop from $1.22 to $.85 per call, while intrastate (in-state) rates will be reduced from $3.20 to $2.29 for a 15-minute call and rates for interstate (long distance) calls will drop from $3.75 to $2.70 for a 15-minute collect call or $2.25 for debit and prepaid calls.
Although prisoners’ rights groups like Dover-based Citizens for Criminal Justice were happy the phone rates were reduced, one advocate called the lower rates a “drop in the bucket” – just one of many inflated charges that prisoners and their families must bear.
“It’s good to see a move in the right direction,” said the organization’s director, Kenneth Abraham, a former Deputy Attorney General who served time in prison on a drug charge. “But it still seems too high and could be lower.”
The DOC’s rates for interstate calls were originally $10.70 for a 15-minute call, but responding to pressure from advocacy groups – including the national Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, co-founded by the Human Rights Defense Center, PLN’s parent organization – the Federal Communications Commission imposed a cap on interstate prison phone rates that went into effect in February 2014. The rate cap of $.25/minute for collect calls and $.21/minute for debit and prepaid calls reduced the DOC’s interstate rates by around 65%.
DOC officials congratulated themselves on the even lower rates under the new contract with GTL, stating they were exploring other ways to improve communication between prisoners and their families, including video visitation, in order to reduce recidivism.
However, prisoners’ rights groups are watching to ensure that these proposed changes are not just another way to extract money from families that are already under severe financial pressure, such as charging for video visits. Towards that end, Abraham said Citizens for Criminal Justice is organizing a one-week boycott of all DOC phone services from September 6-13, 2015, to focus more attention on that issue. Other groups endorsing the boycott include Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the NAACP (Wilmington Branch), Link of Love and Partnership for Reentry.
Prior to its new contract, the DOC was receiving around $1 million per year in kickbacks from GTL based on a 30% commission on phone revenue.
Sources: www.delawareonline.com, Citizens for Criminal Justice
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login