In an age of unlimited talk and text, free long distance and video calling, and pennies-per-minute international rates, the thought of charging upwards of $100-per-hour for speaking with inmates over the phone sounds quite bizarre. Such charges may even sound criminal.

In a revealing online story, Criminal Charges, published last week, The Verge news editor Colin Lecher wrote of the predatory practices of prison phone monopolies and a recent lawsuit won by a family who decided to fight back. The story provides some interesting insight into the obscure regulatory and business practices of monopolistic telecoms across the country who control access to the communication network for millions of inmates.

One company mentioned in the article, Global Tel Link, is the sole provider for most, if not all, inmates in custody here in California county jails. Based on our experience, rates vary heavily on a variety of added fees and surcharges, but may generally equate to an exchange of no less than $25-per-15-minute conversation. Connection Networks, a subsidiary of GTL that handles financial billing, provides the “convenient” option of auto-paying the billing account whenever the amount falls below a certain threshold, ensuring not only that funds are available for use but also that they will always have at least that amount of your money to hold. Other evidence suggests that deposited funds may be forfeited, that is, they are nonrefundable if left unused for a period of time.

What remains is a variation of the old adage: If you commit the crime, not only you will pay for the time.

Criminal Charges by Colin Lecher, The Verge

Blog Post by Taylor S. Moudy, Esq. Law Office of Louis J. Goodman