More about eTc
The 2000 Campaign
The packets contained materials that were to be sent to state legislators, governors, prison system leaders, and telephone company leaders. We also sent materials to state legislators from Campaign headquarters. In most states, campaign materials were also personally delivered to the office of each legislator.
The 2000 campaign was financed by campaign participants and generous contributions from:
Since the 2000 campaign was launched, we have seen many changes in prison telephone systems. See our Campaign Report below.
This Web-Based Campaign
eTc Campaign Update (Updated, June 2007)
This document summarizes the activity we have seen regarding prison telephone systems since we launched the Equitable Telephone Charges (eTc) Campaign in January, 2000. We have identified four categories of activity: Administrative Initiatives, Legislative Activity, Litigation, and Editorial Support. We have recently added a category entitled Telephone Company Practices to highlight some of the activities of the phone companies involved in this business.
It is obvious that much of the legislation has never been enacted into law. While that may seem discouraging, we have noticed that often the introduction of legislation has been followed by administrative improvements. We suspect that simply shedding light on the problems has led to these positive changes.
The amount of activity has been encouraging, since the issue was not widely discussed prior to the launch of our campaign. Nevertheless, the problems are unsolved. Much work remains. We are determined to continue our efforts until we achieve the reasonable rates we all deserve.
AR: On February 17, 2007, the Department of Corrections implemented a new contract that reduced commissions by 10% (from 55% to 45%) and reduced the cost of a 15-minute phone call by nearly $2. This change was the result of strong advocacy work on the part of Arkansas-CURE and others, as well as threatened legislation to eliminate commissions altogether.
CA: In February, 2002, the state signed a contract that will reduce the rates of most prisoner phone calls by 25 percent, and will also trim the annual commission paid the state. The contracts with MCI and Verizon were renewed without competitive bidding.
CO: Colorado allows prisoners to make debit calls as well as collect calls. Debit calls are provided through a debit account system.
On January 3, 2001, DOC administrators reported to the Legislative Joint Budget Committee that they were working on a 5-year contract that would reduce phone system commissions from 33.3% to 27-28%.
CT: The prison system announced plans to operate a pilot program to test debit calling.
DC: In a letter dated July 15, 2003, Odie Washington, Director of the DC Department of Corrections, indicated that negotiations were underway for a new jail telephone system. The new system would allow debit calls and collect calls, more telephones, and a system to prevent recording attorney-client calls. Due to a conflict between the jail and the phone company, the new phone system was not being used as of May 10, 2004.
GA: On February 19, 2001, the Georgia Public Service Commission ordered telephone providers to reduce the rates for prisoner calls from $3.95 connection fee and $.69 per minute to $2.20 connection fee and $.35 per minute.
IA: On January 18, 2001, Board of Corrections Director announced that prepaid debit cards would be made available to prisoners. The system: 1) allows only pre-paid debit cards – no collect calls. 2) allows no calls to toll-free numbers are allowed. 3) uses a separate account. Friends and family members can send money to that account, and the account is not subject to deductions for restitution and pay for stay. Unlike all other prison phone debit systems, debit calls cost more than the collect calls did.
ID: The phone system allows both debit and collect calling.
IN: In October, 2001, a new contract for state prison phones resulted in lower rates. Under the T-NETIX contract, rates dropped from $3.95 + 69¢ per minute (under old AT&T contract) to $1.50 + 25¢ per minute. The new contract does not impact local calls. In October, 2001, state commissions dropped from approximately $11 million annually to approximately $5 million
Under the new T-NETIX contract, the State will receive 48.25% and a guaranteed minimum of $2.75 million. The T-NETIX contract offers a prepay (NOT debit) option with modest reductions in cost to consumers.
KY: In July, 1999, the Kentucky Public Service Commission ruled that by November, 1999, phone companies doing business with the Department of Corrections must roll back surcharges to $1.50 while freezing actual long distance charges at current rates.
LA: Louisiana entered into a 5-year contract with MCI in February, 2002. The State receives a commission of 55%. The State’s revenues in 2003 were $4.1 million. In 2003 under the contract, the average cost of a local 15-minute call was $0.98; the average cost of a 15-minute intra-state call was $4.14.
MD: On January 15, 2004, the Maryland prison system began operating under a new contract with T-NETIX. That contract replaced contracts with Verizon and AT&T and provided for reduced rates and debit calling. The State’s projected revenues are $5.5 annually.
ME: The Wiscasset Newspaper reported on January 25, 2007 that the DOC would be instituting a new phone system that would eliminate the connection fee and implement a flat rate of $0.30 per minute. Those who wish to receive calls will be required to deposit money using a website and will be charged a fee for each deposit. We do not have a date for that implementation.
MI: The phone system allows both collect and debit calling. However, Michigan is the only state in which the debit calls are billed at the same rate as the collect calls.
On December 4, 2006, the Department posted a memo indicating that debit calls could be made to cell phones. (Collect calls to cell phones will not be allowed.)
On February 1, 2007, the Department posted a memo indicating that calls will be allowed to phones using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). The memo states that “VOIP is not call forwarding and is allowable.
MN: Allows prisoners to make debit calls as well as collect calls.
MO: In the autumn of 2006, the Department switched its service to PCS, reduced the rates for all but local calls, and introduced debit calling. Its rates are now comparable to Nebraska’s – the lowest in the country.
NC: In April, 2004, Patricia Deal, telecommunications manager for the state Division of Prisons, reported that she was evaluating proposals a new prison telephone system that would include debit calling. She estimated that once the contract is approved, debit calling would be available within 7 months.
ND: The state offers both collect and debit calling.
NE: In February, 2003, the Nebraska Department of Corrections entered into a contract with AT&T to provide prison telephone services. (Nebraska receives no commission on prison calls.) The 5-year contract allows for debit calling, a 20% reduction in call rates, and the ability to place international calls.
NM: The state offers both collect and debit calling.
NY: On April 1, 2007, the New York prison system became the second in the nation to eliminate commissions on prison phone calls. Savings of approximately 50% were reflected in the phone rates. Governor Eliot Spitzer had announced the changes on his eight day in office.
OH: On August 21, 2000, Summit County Council members unanimously approved a contract that will reduce the fee for local collect calls from $2.50 per call to $1.80, the same rate the public is charged. The agreement followed negotiations between the County Sheriff’s Department and the Catholic Commission.
In the summer of 2003, Corrections Corporation of America closed it’s facility in Sayre over a problem involving telephone rates. The facility had housed prisoners from Wisconsin who were being charged $3.95 to connect and $0.89 per minute to talk to family and friends at home. The State of Wisconsin demanded lower rates. The telephone contract was between the city of Sayre and AT&T. Despite several attempts, the city was unable to negotiate a change with AT&T. By the time AT&T agreed to let them out of the contract, it was too late. Prisoners had been moved to another CCA facility that could provide phone rates of $1.25 to connect and $0.22 per minute. Kerry Hibbs of AT&T was quoted as saying, “We find it hard to believe that they would shut down the prison over telephone rates. We had no interest in shutting the prison down.”
OR: The Oregon Department of Corrections now offers both debit and collect calls.
PA: In 2002, the Pennsylvania DOC entered into a new telephone contract with Verizon that was to have lowered the average price of a fifteen-minute call by as much as thirty percent. At the beginning of 2003, the Pennsylvania prison system introduced debit calling which offered modest rate reductions. Local call costs vary by institution. IntraLATA call costs vary by institution and, in some cases, by distance.
In the spring of 2007, the DOC began introducing a system to allow prisoners to receive email. The cost is $0.60 per standard page. The message is screened before being delivered. Because of security concerns, prisoners cannot send email.
SC: The state provides both debit and collect calls.
SD: In 2002, the legislature appropriated enough funds to cover anticipated lost revenues so the Department of Corrections could reduce their phone revenues. As a result, a new phone system was installed on August 1, 2002 that includes both collect and debit calling.
TN: On April 5, 2001, Global Tel*Link reduced rates for local calls from TN prisons from $1.35 to $.85 as a result of complaints filed with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA). Global is appealing findings of the TRA.
In August, 2001, Global Tel*Link increased telephone rates for long distance, interstate calls. In 2002, they initiated a proposal to the Department of Corrections to increase rates again. DOC Commissioner Campbell rejected the proposal, “As you know, maintaining contact with family and friends in the free world is an important part of an inmate’s rehabilitation and preparation to return to the community. Furthermore, telephone privileges are essential in managing inmate populations…. (Price increases) would hinder both of the aforementioned departmental objectives in addition to creating an undue hardship for inmate’s families. Consequently, the Department of Corrections does not approve any increase in service rates.”
Tennessee allows prisoners to make debit calls as well as collect calls. Debit calling reportedly results in savings of 10%.
VA: In 2004, Virginia was receiving a 40% commission on prisoner phone calls, contributing $6-$8 million annually to the State’s general fund. The system permits both debit and collect calls.
VT: The system permits both debit and collect calling.
WA: On November 17, 2006, the state switched to a new contract that substantially reduced the cost of collect calls and introduced debit calling with slightly reduced rates. The rates for interstate and international calls were not changed and remain high. The department indicated that they were exploring the possibility of future reductions in rates for interstate and international calls.
WV: Advocates in West Virginia report a “HUGE DECREASE” in the cost of prisoner calls. Local call rates are reduced from $2.25 to $1.00. In the case of long distance calls, the surcharge has been reduced from $2.25 to $.85 and the per minute charges have been reduced from $.66 to $.05 and $.07, depending upon the distance involved.
WY: In June 2006, Wyoming DOC announced a new contract with Inmate Calling Solutions that reduced the rate for most collect calls (all but local) and introduced debit calling.
CO: Senate Bill 303 (2003) exempts the DOC from Public Utilities Commission oversight. According to a DOC lobbyist, had the bill not become law, prisoner calls would have been subject to extra surcharges and taxes, the DOC could not have limited the numbers a prisoner could call, and they could not have monitored phone calls. Opponents of the bill claim it gave the prison system the freedom to set rates for prison phone calls, and that that freedom could be used to raise revenue in a tight budget year.
CT: As a result of legislation,, (House Bill No. 5672, Public Act 02-104), the Connecticut Department of Corrections will establish a trial debit system at one prison in 2002.
FL: HB 1975, (2000) would have recognized the importance of prisoner-family contact and would have required a survey of existing federal and state prison telephone systems. The resulting follow-up report would have been used to select a plan for prisoner phone services with a primary consideration that of reducing cost of calls and giving secondary importance to commissions. The bill did not pass.
ID: On January 16, 2001, a legislative committee questioned IDOC Director James Spalding about the commissions received on prisoner telephone calls ($3 million annually). He was also asked why a calling card system could not be implemented. (Since then, the state has implemented debit calling.)
IN: HB 2115 (2001) would have prohibited governmental entities from profiting from prisoner phone calls. It did not become law.
HB 1225 (2002) required that a request for bids for a phone system for “confined offenders” must emphasize low rates and fees. Commissions would be limited to 33%. County jail contracts would have to terminate on the earlier of (1) four years after the contact was entered into, or (2) five months after the general election immediately after the date the contract was entered into. In the spring of 2002, commission on phone calls from the state’s 18 largest county jails were limited, by law, to no more than 33%.
LA: SB 259 (2001) would have required any contract for prisoner phone services be awarded to the lowest bidder and would have prohibited the state or any governmental entity from profiting from such services.
MA: SB 1273 introduced by Senator Charles Shannon (2001) would have prevented any special surcharges or tariffs on prisoner calls. It would also have required the prison system to establish a debit calling system for prisoners. The bill was not enacted into law.
MD: HB 663 (2001) would have prohibited the state or any county from imposing a surcharge, commission or other fee in excess of the allowable charge for the call for local or long-distance telephone service. In addition, charges could not have exceeded the average rate established by the Public Service Commission (PSC) charged by the state’s five largest telephone service providers for operator-assisted calls in the state. Furthermore, the state and counties would have to consider alternative methods of providing phone service to prisoners that seek to reduce costs and provide quality service. Finally, the bill would have required the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to conduct a survey of prison phone systems and explore alternatives such as debit accounts, calling cards, and debit cards. The bill passed in the house and died in senate committee.
On March 7, 2002, the House of Delegates Committee on Commerce and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on HB 839. The bill would prohibit the state from receiving commissions on prisoner phone calls, and would ensure that the reduction in the cost of the contract is “reasonably reflected in the charges for inmate telephone calls.”
HB 873 (2004) would reduce commissions paid to state or local governments for the inmate telephone services by 20% per year until they are eliminated in 2009. In addition, any inmate telephone service contracts entered into in 2005 or later could not produce revenue for the state or a local government.
ME: LD 91 (2007) would have required the Public Utilities Commission to oversee and regulate the Department of Corrections telephone system, and produce annual reports for the legislature, with recommendations for improvement. The bill died in the Senate.
MI: HB 4184 (2001) would have required competition in prison telephone systems.
MO: HB 1691 would have amended existing law to require that contracts for telephone services for state prisoners “be awarded to the lowest and the best bidder over the life of the contract, based on call costs to called parties.” It would also have authorized the purchasing office to renegotiate any existing contracts to reduce call costs to called parties.
NC: HB 1844 (2000) would have required the DOC to provide telephone systems in all institutions that do not permit a single vendor to control rates paid by recipients of inmate calls, either by allowing inmates to use prepaid phone cards or by some other method. The bill was not enacted into law.
NH: HB 1418 (2002) would have established a committee to study the cost of telephone calls from state prison inmates to their families, whether there is a link between frequent calls and recidivism, and study the feasibility of “the state subsidizing inmate phone calls to family members.”
NM: On March 14, 2001, Governor Gary Johnson signed a bill that requires prisons and jails to provide telephone services at the lowest reasonable cost. The law, which will took effect June 15, 2001, applies to the state’s prisons, privately operated prisons used by the state, and jails throughout the state. The measure prohibits contracts that pay the prison operator a commission or share of call revenues.
NY: On June 23, 2005, the New York Assembly passed the Family Connections Bill (A.7231-A), which will provide prisoners with fair-market telephone rates and prevent the state from making a profit from the system. Facilities would have the option of providing collect or debit phone service. The Senate did act on companion bill (S.5299-A).
On June 21, 2007, the New York State Senate and Assembly reached agreement on legislation (A05407) that will require that rates for phone calls from prisons will be comparable to rates in the surrounding community, and will be based upon the lowest rates to inmates using the phones. As summarized by the New York Campaign for Telephone Justice, “(The) legislation would treat prison telephone service as a right, not as a revenue generator.” The changes will be reflected in a new contract that will be implemented April 1, 2008.
OK: In 2001, an interim legislative study examined the issue of prisoner telephone calls. Among the findings of the interim study: “It appears Department of Corrections ability to forfeit commission could save approximately 45% of most phone charges.” The Corrections department’s chief of administrative operations (David Miller) said that the agency is also scrutinizing its charges.
In January, 2003, legislation (HB 1552) was introduced to reduce the cost of prisoner calls. Representative Kirby introduced a second bill (HB 1590), which, by March 7, had passed the house (95-4). Among the provisions of the bill are “fingerprint identification of the inmate placing the telephone call” and “periodic photographs of the inmate during the telephone conversation for identity verification.” The bill was amended to change the language, “All revenue generated from inmate telephones and received by the Department of Corrections shall be for the benefit and welfare of inmates and personnel...” to , “... for the benefit and welfare of the Victim’s Compensation Fund.” The law was not enacted.
HB1552 (2004) would limit the State’s revenue for prison phones to the amount required to cover their expenses. HB 2425 (2004) would allow the State to set the rates and to make a profit.
SB 856 was introduced in 2007 to require fairly priced phone services for prisoners to communicate with family, friends, and legal counsel.
PA: HB 1402 (2002) became law, allowing for a debit calling system.
RI: H 5710 (2001) would have placed phone revenues in the Prisoners’ Recreation and Education Account. In addition to normal account purchases, the funds would also have been used to purchase phone cards for prisoners whose families are indigent. The bill was not enacted into law.
SC: Joint Resolution 1289 (2000) would have set up a committee to review prison telephone systems and rates and their impact on prisoners and their families. The bill was not enacted into law.
SD: HB 1182 (2001) would have prohibited prison phone charges above “usual and customary.” It was not enacted into law.
TX: In March, 2003, two Texas legislators introduced bills to allow prisoners broader access to telephones. Representative Jack Stick introduced one of the bills. Representative Terri Hodges introduced the other (HB-1711). Neither bill was passed.
On May 15, 2007, the governor signed S.B. 1580, calling for implementation of a phone system in Texas prisons. The legislation specifies that the state will receive a commission of at least 40%. The system is to allow an average monthly call usage rate of 8 calls (of not less than 10 minutes) per eligible prisoner. Prior to passage of this legislation, calls were restricted to one per quarter for trustees only.
VA: HB 2196 and HB 2213 (2001) would have mandated that any commission received by DOC from phone contracts be used only to operate the prisoner phone system.
HB 1632 (2007) would have authorized the State Corporation Commission to determine that the rates for debit or prepaid telephone systems at state correctional facilities were at the lowest available rates for the service in accordance with filed schedules. The measure also would have established a 10% cap on the amount of any commissions, lease payments or other fees that a provider of inmate telecommunications services may pay to the Commonwealth or any agency or political subdivision under its contract. Any amounts paid in excess of this cap would have been deposited in a newly established Prisoner Telephone Rate Fund and used to reduce the surcharges or rates paid for calls. (The bill did pass.)
WA: SB 6352 (2004) would allow use of debit calling. The bill was passed by the House and Senate in February, 2004.
FED: H.R. 4466 (2005) would empower the Federal Communications Commission to regulate interstate prison phone calls by setting maximum rates, requiring both collect and debit calling, prohibiting commissions, requiring competition, and prohibiting call blocking solely because there is no billing agreement in place between the prison phone company and the local phone company. The bill received no action, and was reintroduced in 2007 as H.R. 555.
CA: In September, 2000, the California Public Utilities Commission ruled that MCI had not billed its tariffed rates for intrastate MCI Maximum Security Collect Calls. As a result, MCI was ordered to pay overcharges to Friends Outside, a California non-profit that assists families, prisoners and ex-prisoners. The PUC’s ruling was the result of a complaint filed by the Utility Consumers’ Action Network.
In April, 2004, we were informed that the Law Offices of John W. Allured and two other firms were representing plaintiffs in an action captioned “Elena Condes, et al v. Evercom Systems, Inc., et al.” At that time, the case was pending in the Superior Court for the County of Alameda. The plaintiffs alleged that Evercom Systems, et al had charged individuals for collect calls from prisoners when the calls were not authorized nor accepted by recipients.
DC: DC Prisoners’ Legal Services filed a class action suit in federal court seeking damages and injunctive relief for excessive rates and restrictions imposed on prisoners’ use of long distance telephone services in private prisons. The Communications Act claims were referred to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 2003, a petition for rulemaking was submitted to the FCC challenging (1) phone systems that that allow only one provider to offer service at a given prison and (2) permitting the service provider to offer only collect calling services, rather than a choice between collect and debit calling. Petitioners argue that it is technically feasible for multiple long distance carriers to interconnect with prison telephone systems without compromising security and other penological needs.
IL: A suit was filed in April, 1999 against the State of Illinois, IL Directors of Central Management Services and Department of Corrections, Illinois Counties of Cook, DuPage and Kane, AT&T, MCI, Evercom, Ameritech, Invision Telecom, & Consolidated Communications Public Services, Inc. Plaintiff attorneys and law firms included Center for Constitutional Rights, Seliger, Elkin & Dolan, Ltd., People’s Law Office, and Soule & Bradtke. The suit was originally dismissed by the U.S. District Court. In June, 2001, Judge Richard A. Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court rejected an appeal.
IN: Attorneys Stephen Laudig, Lawrence M. Reuben, and Richard Waples have filed a class action suit against the Sheriff of Marion County as a representative of all similarly situated county sheriffs in Indiana and against the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration. The case raises a number of issues including breach of common law regarding the duty of reasonableness owed to the plaintiffs, the unauthorized taxing of a sum of money, the unauthorized imposition of a licensing fee, unreasonable and unjust rate or service charge, unjust enrichment, money had and received, the combination to restrain and carry out restrictions on trade, a combination to increase price, and an allegation that the telephones had not provided reasonably adequate services and facilities to Class members. Defendants requested a motion to dismiss and the trial court agreed. On January 13, 2004, the Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed the trial court, and ordered the case be heard.
KY: Attorneys F. Thomas Conway and Bart Adams have filed suit against the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the KY Department of Corrections, the State of Missouri, the MO Department of Corrections, six KY counties, one Indiana County, one Arizona County, InVision Telecom, Inc.; MCI Telecommunications Corp.; LDDS WorldCom D/B/A Worldcom, Inc.; Gateway Technologies, Inc.; and Security Telecom Corporation. All claims were dismissed with the exception of a Sherman Anti-Trust claim for injunctive relief. The case was sent back to district court; we do not know the status.
In a case before the Kentucky Public Service Commission, the commission found prison phone rates “unjust and unreasonable.” The Public Service Commission reviewed prison phone rates throughout the state leading to a significant rate reduction: a cap of $1.50 surcharge per call.
LA: Diane King Smith challenged the Department of Corrections block of Remote Call Forwarding services. On February, 21, 2003, District Court Judge Michael Caldwell ordered the block lifted, because the DOC had not followed proper procedure in adopting the rule. The victory is likely to be short-lived, because a new rule banning such services is scheduled to take effect Mary 22, 2003.
MA: Phillip Kassel, Esq. of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, Inc. has handled litigation on behalf of Massachusetts prisoners. A significant element of the case involved a prohibition against international phone calls. If February, 1998, the court ruled that the prison system must permit inmates to make collect, pre-paid, monitored, or international calls to family members. Unfortunately, the cost of the international calls has remained extremely high, and, to-date, litigation has been unsuccessful in lowering those rates.
MI: Prison Legal Services of Michigan submitted a motion to amend a long-standing prison rights case (Cain v. MDOC) to include a challenge to the prison telephone system. The challenge was based on the claim that the telephone system violates the constitutional rights of prisoners, the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, the Michigan Antitrust Reform Act, the Michigan Telecommunications Act, and the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act.
On April 9, 2002, the trial Court ruled on the MDOC’s motion for summary disposition on telephone issues. The Court upheld the MDOC’s 20 number limit on PIN lists, the 15 minute limit on calls, the failure to provide indoor phones at some prisons, and the failure to have a writing surface at phones. In (the prisoners’) favor, the Court ruled that (1) MDOC may make only one voice over announcement per call; (2) MDOC must allow prisoners to bring legal papers to the phone when talking to their attorneys; (3) each person responsible for approving or denying placement of an attorney’s number on PIN lists must have a current Bar Journal Directory; and (4) the MDOC must allow prisoners to place their attorney’s home phone number on their PIN lists if requested in writing by the attorney.”
MO: The State of Missouri is among the defendants in a lawsuit filed in Kentucky.
In October, 2000 a lawsuit against the State of New Mexico, Rio Arriba County, and several phone companies was dismissed by State District Judge Jim Hall. Judge Hall ruled he did not have authority to hear the claims, which must be addressed to state regulators. Attorneys planned to appeal.
NH: In February, 2000, several family members filed suit (Michael Guglielmo Sr. v. WorldCom Inc, ILD Teleservices Inc. and ILD Telecommunications Inc.) claiming that the phone companies charged rates higher than specified in a 1997 agreement with the state, that they failed to warn prisoners and their families about the higher rates, and that the phone companies were violating the state’s monopoly and consumer protection laws through their exclusive contracts. A Rockingham County Superior Court judge dismissed the claims related to the rates, but refused to dismiss anti-monopoly and consumer protection claims. Those were referred to the state Supreme Court regarding jurisdiction. In September, 2002, the Supreme Court in a 4-0 ruling found that under the federal filed rate doctrine telephone companies can and must charge the rates they have filed with the FCC. Associate Justice Linda Dalianis wrote that even if the companies misrepresent their rates, they cannot be sued for money damages because customers are responsible for knowing the published tariffs.
NY: The law firm of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg, LLP and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in March, 2000, against the Commissioner of the NY Department of Correctional Services, the NY Attorney General, the NY Comptroller, MCI Worldcom, Inc., and MCI Telecommunications Corporation. Plaintiff’s attorneys were attempting to stop the Department of Correctional Services from implementing a new contract. In addition, plaintiff’s attorneys have also filed a class action suit in NY Court of Claims against the State of NY seeking restitution of all overpayments made by friends, families and counselors of prisoners.
In 2002, Outside Connection (OC) began offering Remote Call Forwarding (RCF) services. When MCI and the New York prison system discovered the practice, they began blocking calls to all OC numbers. OC responded by seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (which was unsuccessful), and then a preliminary injunction (which also failed.)
In March, 2003, Outside Connection filed a complaint with the FCC arguing that prison telephone system providers have no right to block family access to Remote Call Forwarding services. Attorneys for OC are Shooks, Hardy and Bacon in DC. MCI’s original opposition and accompanying affidavits are apparently available at the Worldcom bankruptcy site: www.elawforworldcom.com under documents: 26 Sep, ##1356, 1357, and 1358.
OH: In January, 2000, Dayton attorneys Jon Paul Rion and David M. Deutsch filed suit against Ameritech, GTE, Ameritel, Evercom, MCI, the State of Ohio, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and sheriffs in four named counties alleging violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights by allowing phone companies to charge exorbitant rates. An update received in the summer of 2002, indicated that the defendant’s motion to dismiss had been overruled by Judge Rice of the 6th Circuit.
OK: A class action suit has been filed by attorney Jim Wilcoxen and others. Litigation is in the discovery phase. No other details are known at this time.
PA: In the autumn of 2002, the entire Commonwealth Court heard arguments in the case of Feigley and PA-CURE vs. the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission. It is rare that the entire Court hears an argument at first glance.
SC: On February 15, 2001, attorneys with the law firm of Covington, Patrick, Hagins, Stern and Lewis, P.A., filed suit against Sprint, T-Netix, Bell South, AT&T, GTE, Rock Hill Telephone Company, Farmers Telephone Company and Science Dynamics. A hearing was scheduled for March 21, 2002. We have no update.
VA: In a ruling dated August 23, 2001, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) ruled that “collect call service from state prison facilities is not being offered on a competitive basis.” It then required the phone provider (MCI Worldcom) to file “just and reasonable rates” for prisoner-initiated calls. The cost and supporting documentation were to be filed by January 7, 2002. In addition, MCI was “to review its charges to customers for this service since January 1, 1999. Upon further SCC review, customers may be due refunds with interest.” MCI appealed that ruling. The appeal was rejected in January, 2002, and the SCC set another date for the rate study (May 20, 2002).
Senator Norment then filed bill SB156 that eliminated SCC jurisdiction over state agency contracts. That bill became law.
The law was challenged, and in March, 2003, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of MCI and against the SCC and Virginia CURE. By a 5-2 vote, justices ruled that the SCC has no jurisdiction over the DOC’s contract with MCI.
WA: In July, 2000, a prisoner filed a suit charging that phone companies are disregarding a state law that requires them to let people find out collect call prices before they accept a call.
WI: In March, 2000, a suit was filed against MCI, AT&T, Ameritech, the State of Wisconsin, the Department of Corrections Secretary and several county sheriffs alleging violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Federal Communications Act.
CA: San Francisco Chronicle, editorial June 15, 1999
FL: The Tampa Tribune, December 28,1999 editorial:
GA: The Atlanta Journal, October 22, 2001 editorial:
IA: Quad-City Times, editorial April 30, 2000
IN: Indianapolis Star editorial, June 20, 2000
MI: The Grand Rapids Press, editorial June, 15, 2000
Detroit Free Press, editorial February 5, 2007
NH: Concord Monitor, editorial April 5, 1999
NY: New York Times, editorial December 6, 1999:
Newsday, columnist Sheryl McCarthy, April 8, 2000,
OH: Columbus Dispatch editorial December 23, 1999,
OK: Daily Oklahoman, “Dialing for Dollars, “ August 2, 2000
Daily Oklahoman, “Prison Phone Fees Merit Review,” October 21, 2003
Tulsa World, “Is Phone System Fair for Inmates?” October 21, 2003
VA: Roanoke Times, editorial December 17, 1999:
The Virginia-Pilot, editorial September 4, 2001:
WV: The Charleston Gazette, August 3, 2000