by Monte McCoin
The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) announced on March 17, 2018 that phone calls from state prisons would be less expensive for prisoners and their families, effective immediately.
“The reduced rate will make services even more accessible and affordable for inmates’ families and loved ones,” Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall declared. “Family members will be able to stay in touch with their loved ones without worrying about the cost. We realize that family contact is very important for rehabilitation.”
The cost for calls made by prisoners dropped from $.22 per minute to $.11 per minute, and associated fees were eliminated or reduced. The rate change applies to all state-run facilities and will soon be the same at the state’s privately-operated prisons. The MDOC’s new agreement with Global Tel*Link (GTL) established rates that align with the per-minute cap the Federal Communications Commission set last year for debit and prepaid prison phone calls – even though those rates never went into effect, as they were successfully challenged in court by GTL and other phone service providers and corrections agencies. [See: PLN, July 2017, p.52].
The MDOC uses “commission” kickbacks from phone revenues and prisoners’ commissary purchases for the Inmate Welfare Fund (IWF), which pays for services, supplies and equipment toward prisoners’ educational, recreational and programmatic needs. Former MDOC Commissioner Marshall Fisher said the IWF would be “significantly reduced because of the change in phone rates,” but noted, “We receive constant complaints from inmate family members and others regarding the high cost for phone service.”
He added, “This decision will significantly reduce expenses to the families.”
Sources: www.mdoc.ms.gov, www.wdam.com, www.msnewsnow.com
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