Nationwide PLN Survey Examines Prison Phone Contracts, Kickbacks

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As if having a family member in prison isn’t hard enough, telephone companies are making it financially difficult to get in contact with their loved one.  Nationwide Research Finds Excessive Prison Phone Rates Exploit Prisoners’ Families.  “The report, based on several years of research that included submitting public records requests in all 50 states, found that prison phone companies routinely provide kickbacks-euphemistically known as “commissions”- to contracting government agencies, based on a percentage of the revenue earned from prisoners’ phone calls” (Dannenberg).

Prison phone service kickbacks average 42% nationwide among states that accept commissions, and in some cases reach 60% or more. Put into simple terms, up to 60% of what prisoners’ families pay to receive phone calls from their incarcerated loved ones. These contracts are priced not only to unjustly enrich the telephone companies by charging much higher rates than those paid by the general public, but are further inflated to cover the commission payments, which suck over $152 million per year out of the pockets of prisoners’ families

The kickbacks are not controlled by state or federal regulatory agencies, and the only limit on the maximum rate for prison phone calls is the top rate permitted by such agencies or by the phone service contract itself.


Title: Nationwide PLN Survey Examines Prison Phone Contracts, Kickbacks

Author: John E. Dannenberg

Publication: Prison Legal News, April 2011




Student Researcher: Gina Sevieri, Sonoma State University Student

Evaluator: Jason Ma, California State Prisoner