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HRDC comment to FCC in response to Securus Motion for Extension

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Human Rights Defense Center

March 28, 2017
The Honorable Ajit Pai, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Re: Ex Parte filing for WC Docket 12-375
Dear Chairman Pai:
The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), publisher of Prison Legal News (PLN), respectfully
submits this Comment for WC Docket No. 12-375 in response to the Motion for Extension filed
by Securus Technologies, Inc.1
We should not lose sight of the fact that Securus Technologies, Inc. (Securus) is attempting to
delay reporting requirements that it in large part created in a “carefully constructed consensus
proposal” submitted by not only Securus, but Global Tel*Link Corporation (GTL) and Telmate,
LLC (Telmate),2 which the Commission relied upon in its Second Report and Order and Third
Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.3
That we need this level of reporting at all is the direct result of current and past industry practices
and the lack of transparency regarding Inmate Calling Services (ICS) rates and fees. Id. at ¶202.
Not only did the Commission “share the concern that ICS contracts are not sufficiently
transparent,” but it also found adequate evidence “to support HRDC’s assertion that members of
the public must ‘unnecessarily expend time and money to obtain records’ of ICS Contracts.” Id.
Lack of Transparency
Numerous filings on this Docket detail the pervasive lack of transparency that has been allowed
to exist in the ICS industry for far too long. HRDC received a small grant in 2009 to begin to
collect ICS contracts from the 50 state departments of corrections and the Bureau of Prisons, and
it wasn’t until that data was collected, published and reported to the FCC that we could see how

Securus Technologies, Inc. Motion for Extension, WC Docket No. 12-375, March 10, 2017.
See Joint Provider Proposal, WC Docket No. 12-375, September 15, 2014 at 7.
Second Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC Docket 12-375, November 5,
2015 at ¶264.

P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Phone: 561-360-2523 Fax: 866-735-7136

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commission kickbacks artificially inflate ICS rates and that ICS providers were taking every
opportunity to price gouge prisoners and their families – not only by charging exorbitant phone
rates, but also by charging excessive fees. If not for the initial grant and our constant efforts to
identify and obtain funding to continue this critical work, we might not know today the depth
and breadth of the abuses and consumer exploitation within the ICS industry.
The public records request process in each of the 50 states should provide consumers with
reasonable access to public records – in this case ICS contracts – but often it doesn’t. In fact, it is
not unusual for correctional facilities to consult and work with ICS providers on responses to
public records requests. Private industry should have no involvement in this process; the public
has a right to know the terms of the contracts entered into by government agencies, which are
funded with taxpayer dollars.
As HRDC has previously reported on this Docket, we were required to file a lawsuit to obtain
records after GTL and the Mississippi Department of Corrections refused to produce an ICS
contract and related records under the guise of a protective order.4 The case settled in May 2009
and the records were finally produced.5 We’ve also reported on difficulties obtaining unredacted
public records from the Pennsylvania DOC (where both GTL and Securus intervened in the
process) and from the Ohio DOC, under claims of “proprietary information” and “copyright.” Id.
In 2015, the Illinois DOC summarily rejected our request for public records, including ICS
contracts and documents related to commission kickbacks, as being “unduly burdensome.” Id. at
2. The Alabama DOC requires that we send someone to its office in Montgomery to photocopy
records, while Tennessee’s public records statute limits the public’s ability to request documents
to Tennessee citizens. Id.
Lack of transparency by government officials who oversee correctional institutions is not
limited to state agencies. We were required to retain counsel and file suit against the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for failure to
timely produce an ICS contract under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and for relying
on improper exemptions. In a ruling granting HRDC’s summary judgment motion, U.S. District
Court Judge Marsha Pechman found that DHS and ICE “violated FOIA by failing to respond to
Plaintiff’s requests and have failed to prove that [ICS provider] Talton’s performance incentive
falls within one of FOIA’s exemptions.” Id. at 3.
The integrity and transparency of the telecom industry in general and ICS providers in particular
are too important to be entrusted to the vagaries of public records laws. Even if HRDC litigates
and prevails in such cases, the delay in disclosure harms our advocacy efforts and impedes public
and regulatory understanding of the underlying issues. It is also a drain on the resources of a
small non-profit organization confronting the secrecy and vast resources of the ICS industry.
We must further note that lack of transparency in the ICS industry also leads to corruption. Our
most recent filings on this Docket detail the sentencing of Sam Waggoner, a paid consultant for
GTL who pled guilty to bribing Christopher Epps, the former Mississippi DOC Commissioner
and then-president of both the American Correctional Association and the Association of State
Correctional Administrators, to contract/retain GTL as the MDOC’s exclusive prison phone

Prison Legal News v. Mississippi Department of Corrections and Global Tel*Link Corporation, Hinds County,
Mississippi, Civil Action No. G2009-391 T/1.

Human Rights Defense Center Comment, WC Docket No. 12-375, July 15, 2015.

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provider,6 and the subsequent filing of RICO and other claims against GTL related to the
Waggoner/Epps case by Mississippi’s Attorney General.7
ICS providers and the correctional facilities they enter into monopoly contracts with work
hard to protect each other and withhold information from the true consumers of ICS services –
prisoners and their families who have been required to pay exorbitant rates and fees in order to
stay connected during times of incarceration. The public records disclosure process can be
unduly burdensome and expensive, as detailed above. The FCC has encouraged ICS providers
and facilities to make their contracts publicly available.8 However, not only have ICS providers
universally declined to do so, but Securus is now attempting to unnecessarily delay the very
reporting for which it previously advocated.
HRDC is in full support of the Reporting Rules issued by the Commission in its Second Report
and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 15-136 (rel. Nov. 5, 2015),
and we urge the Commission to deny Securus’ Motion for Extension.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Paul Wright
Executive Director, HRDC


Human Rights Defense Center, Ex Parte filing, Docket No. WC 12-375, February 21, 2017.
Human Rights Defense Center, Ex Parte filing, Docket No. WC 12-375, February 23, 2017.
Second Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC Docket 12-375, November 5,
2015 at ¶202.