by Steve Horn and Iris Wagner
A comprehensive set of public records obtained by Prison Legal News from the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) and most of the state’s county jails indicates that the average cost of local and in-state phone calls made by Washington prisoners has steadily increased in recent years.
The records also demonstrate an ongoing shift toward video-based calling in county jails, which in some cases has resulted in the elimination of in-person, face-to-face visits. PLN uses the term “video calling” because “video visits” implies people are actually visiting each other rather than seeing their images on a screen. The records procured by PLN further indicate that some of the money generated from phone and video calling revenue at county jails, which is placed in Inmate Welfare Funds, is used to pay the salaries and benefits of jail employees instead of benefiting prisoners.
These developments have occurred despite the state’s proclaimed desire to lower phone rates for prisoners and, ironically, are partly due to a cap on interstate (long distance) prison and jail phone rates imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Using Washington’s Public Records Act, PLN obtained and reviewed telecom contracts for the Washington Department ...