- Report Published -
|Rates Charged to Recipients of Inmate Long Distance Calls|
|State Corporation Commission, Division of Communications|
|Letter request of House Committee on Rules|
|During the 2000 Session of the General Assembly the House Committee on Rules considered House Joint Resolution ("HJR") 262, which requested the State Corporation Commission ("SCC") to study the rates charged to recipients of long distance calls placed by inmates held in state prisons, and local and regional jails. While HJR 262 was not reported, the House Committee on Rules determined that the issues raised in the resolution were important and should be reviewed by the SCC.|
By letter, S. Vance Wilkins, Jr., Speaker of the House of Delegates, requested that the SCC's Division of Communications undertake a study of inmate calling. The Speaker provided a copy of HJR 262 as a guidance document. HJR 262 requested that the SCC 1) examine the current charges for inmate calls and 2) make recommendations on any alternatives for the provision of telephone service to inmates.
The Staff of the Division of Communications contacted or met with representatives of the state inmate telephone system, various local/regional inmate telephone systems, state and federal entities charged with oversight of inmate facilities, and association of inmate calling service providers, and inmate families. IN addition, we received approximately 30 letters from inmates and their families. Information was gathered regarding the specific rates and surcharges of different companies, alternatives that have been implemented by other inmate facilities, and specific problems encountered with the current state system.
The study discusses collect calls, associated surcharges, and options available to the recipients of inmate collect calls. The current Virginia Department of Corrections contract with MCI WORLDCOM Network services is discussed along with a comparison of the state rates and various rates for local and regional inmate telephone providers. Attachment 3 to the study provides a detailed comparison of the rates and surcharges for intrastate (intraLATA and interLATA) and interstate inmate and nonrestricted automated collect calls.
As requested, the study sets forth modifications that could be implemented to revise the current inmate telephone system along with providing alternatives for the current state and local/regional systems. Of those, we believe there are two which hold the most promise for allowing reductions to calling rates. First, the Legislature should consider requiring the reduction or elimination of the commissions that VDOC or other inmate facilities may collect from the inmate telephone system provider. Any reduction from the current commission level should be passed through to users by reducing the current applicable intrastate and interstate charges or surcharges. Second, we suggest that VDOC and DIT undertake a study to evaluate the feasibility and cost of implementing a debit inmate telephone system in state facilities. This should include feasibility of whether local and regional facilities could be included in such a system.
While providing modifications and recommendations, we believe it is important that before any modification or alternative is adopted, the resulting rates/surcharges, potential Impact on inmate families, and the security and safety for the individual facility and the general public should be considered.