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Federal Judge Approves $25 Million Class Action Settlement Against Global Tel*Link

Under the terms of the settlement, individuals incarcerated in New Jersey prison and jails between 2006 and 2016 who used the GTL phone system, as well as individuals who received telephone calls through the company from New Jersey prisoners before June 2010 or in Essex County, N.J., before June 2011, would be able to file claims.

GTL also had been heavily criticized for requiring people receiving calls from a prisoner to make deposits into a company account and then keeping those deposits if the accounts became “inactive,” generally after the prisoner had been released. Plaintiffs had alleged in their initial complaint that, “Defendants fail(ed) to inform their customers that they will be charged a service or set-up fee which will be deducted from their advance pay balance, when an account is first established.”

Prison Legal News (PLN) has extensively covered the abusive arrangement whereby correctional agencies and telecom service providers enter into kickback-based monopoly contracts that result in inflated phone rates charged to prisoners and their families. [See, e.g.: PLN, Oct. 2018, p.1; Dec. 2013, p.1; April 2011, p.1]. PLN noted in 2018 that this practice constituted “a state-sanctioned, unregulated monopoly that generated substantial revenue for the DOC and GTL through excessive charges and fees imposed on prisoners and their families.”

The parties had originally entered into the settlement in May 2020, but final approval was delayed when a different group of plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against GTL in the state of Georgia seeking compensation for the seizure of funds from “inactive” customer accounts, filed a motion to intervene in the New Jersey matter. 

That motion had sought a portion of the $25 million be set aside for those plaintiffs wishing to file “inactivity” claims, to prevent them from possibly being barred from recovery in that lawsuit by the terms of the class-action settlement. Judge Martini denied that motion, but stated that the Georgia plaintiffs’ counsel could attend the settlement hearing, “for the limited purpose of … objecting to the Settlement.”

According to Judge Martini, the settlement provides “immediate relief to the estimated 55,000 currently incarcerated GTL customers “as well as “direct cash payments to potentially hundreds of thousands of former GTL customers” with valid claims against GTL. Attorney Justin P. Walder of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden PC, agreed, stating that it was “fair and just,” compensating “prisoners and their families who were victimized by over charges in seeking to communicate by telephone,” by a company attempting to profit from the misery of vulnerable prisoners and their families.

Representing the Plaintiffs are James E. Cecchi and Lindsey H. Taylor of, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello, and Justin P. Walder and James A. Plaisted of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden. See: James, et al. v. Global Tel*Link Corp., Case No. 2:13-cv-04989-WJM-MF, U.S.D.C. (D.N.J.). 


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Related legal case

James, et al. v. Global Tel*Link Corp.