by Scott Grammer
There is a surprising item for sale in the commissary at the Union County Jail in South Carolina: cell phones. The $100 phones can be used to text and make calls between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., but do not have Internet access. All communications are monitored and the phones cannot be used to contact alleged victims. Games, music, reading materials and a GED program can be downloaded from access points within the jail. The phones and associated services are provided by Lattice Incorporated.
The company’s website says their “CellMate” phone “is changing how inmates communicate with family and friends and access educational and entertainment content,” and that a future update will allow access to “rehabilitation videos, online educational courses, religious broadcasts, [and] law library content.” This is similar to content provided by tablets in prisons and jail, which also employ a pay-for-service model. [See: PLN, April 2018, p.44; Nov. 2016, p.52; July 2015, p.42].
According to Union County Sheriff David Taylor, the county makes money from the sale of the phones and additional minutes purchased to use them. Lattice emphasizes to jail officials that its “robust account deposit platform ... ensures that important revenue is generated for your facility and transmitted in a timely fashion.” A call to the company’s customer service number revealed the cell phone rates are “between 14 and 28 cents a minute” at the Union County Jail.
Sheriff Taylor said his facility “does not have a contraband cell phone problem,” while a contrasting NBC News report indicated South Carolina’s prison system seized hundreds of illicit cell phones during a search at a single facility, and the DOC has been lobbying the Federal Communications Commission for years to let them jam cell phone signals at state prisons.
Sources: wspa.com, latticeinc.com, nbcnews.com, wistv.com, Lattice Inc. Customer Service
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