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Bids for Florida DOC Video Visitation Technology Result in Lawsuit

On March 7, 2014, the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) released a request for proposal (RFP) seeking a five-year contract with a vendor to install telecommunications services in its prisons. Proposals were submitted by Century Link to Public Communications, Inc., Securus Technologies, Global Tel*Link Corp. and HomeWav, LLC.

The proposal consisted of five questions to be answered by bidders. Answers would then be numerically graded by DOC representatives. Based on the numerical grade given for each answer a company could receive up to 1,000 points. The company receiving the highest score would be awarded a contract to provide telephone services and video visitation technology to the DOC.

When all the proposals were scored Global Tel*Link Corp. was granted the contract. Securus and Century Link filed suit with the Divisions of Administrative Hearings (DAH) alleging that the contract awarded to Global Tel*Link Corp. violated legal standards. § 120.57(3)(f) of the Florida Statutes by not offering a fair and impartial evaluation to all participating bidders.

According to the DAH findings, the entire process was flawed with a variety of errors by everyone involved. Neither Securus nor Global submitted blended rates for both the telephone service and the video visitation service as required by the RFP. Neither did Securus or Global include commission rates in their bid which violated the instructions of the RFP. Securus was also deemed not to have answered one of the RFP questions and received a score of zero from the graders.

Securus submitted a response showing that it had, in fact, answered the required question but that its answers were overlooked because they failed to format those answers under a specific tab. Both Global and Securus pointed out that the questions posed by the RFP could be interpreted in a variety of ways.

Ultimately, the DAH concluded that both “the Global and Securus proposals also undermine the Department’s ability to secure the best value for the public and the lowest possible expense. Since they do not include all of the price elements required by the RFP, the Department cannot and did not conduct a meaningful price comparison of them and the CenturyLink proposal.” Failure to do so “... affects approximately 12 percent of the revenue under the proposed contract and provided Global a substantial advantage.”  The DAH went on to say that “The Department’s intended award to Global ... do not comply with the RFP specifications ... it is RECOMMENDED that the Department of Corrections enter a final order rejecting all proposals....”

It is worth noting that on February 11, 2014, the DOC stopped accepting its 35% commission payments from Securus based on an order issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While the FCC does not prohibit the collection or payment of commissions it does prohibit commissions from being included “…in the costs determining the fee paid by inmates and their designees.” Securus did not suspend the collection of the additional 35% fee to prisoners.  From 2010 thru 2013, prisoners spent in excess of $14 million annually on phone calls. See: CenturyLink Public Communications, Inc. v. Department of Corrections, Case No. 14-2828BID and Global Tel*Link Corporation and Securus Technologies, Inc., Interveners, See also Securus Technologies, Inc., vs. Department of Corrections, Case No. 14-2894BID and Global Tel*Link Corporation and CenturyLink Public Communications Inc., Interveners.

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Related legal cases

CenturyLink Public Communications, Inc. v. Department of Corrections

Securus Technologies, Inc., vs. Department of Corrections