Texas Inmates Get Phone Calls


Copyright (c) 2009 Jared Jones

Now you can routinely call Texas inmates and others in Texas prisons. This past Friday, the Texas prison board was informed of the first in a series of system-wide program additions of telephone service that will be phased in over the course of the next year to the 112 facilities of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The country’s second-largest prison system furmed up a contract with a telecommunications firm from Kansas, allowing state prisoners up to 120 prepaid or collect call minutes of phone time per month. Thirteen prisons were updats in April, another 31 in May, and by the end of September the director and general manager of corrections markets of the Kansas company plans to have the entire system up and running. Embarq Crop. was given a contract for seven years minimum.

Inmates have had routine phone access in most states for a while now, but Texas inmates were previously only allowed to have one five-minute phone call every three months, and even then they required the warden’s express permission and a monitor.

This new program will let prisoners have up to fifteen minutes for each call for friends and family, although calls to victims or their families will not be allowed, and the services will not be made available to the 36,000 prisoners who have disciplinary issues or known gang affiliations. The service will also be barred from prisoners on death row. The inmates will be able to prepay for calls, for about 23 to 43 cents a minute.

So far, 65,000 of Texas’s inmates have enrolled in the program. Family and friends of inmates can register online, and those who are on the prisoner’s list must submit a copy of their telephone bill and their driver’s license, to check their names against the pre-approved list of visitors’ names. There are several layers of intense checking that occur, to maintain security, and the system itself is chock-full of investigative technology.

The plan to give inmates updated telephone privileges was decided after a strong crackdown on contraband cell phone usage, which were being smuggled into prisons by the hundred. Security was tightened to catch those leaving or entering with cell phones, phone components, and chargers. This was partly a reaction to an incident in which an inmate on death row used an illegal cell phone to make threats to a Texas state senator.

The original resistance to allowing a more permissive land-line system was due to the idea that prisoners could keep up their criminal connections while on the inside, planning and perhaps even executing more illegal actions through their cellphones and networks of criminals. However, recently the technology surrounding phone use has improved enough to make monitoring phones calls feasible, allowing officials to record and later consult phone conversations to check for illegal activity. Of course, phone calls to attorneys or lawyers of record would not be monitored, to respect attorney-client confidentiality.

In 2007, the state legislature passed the measure allowing the project by a landslide, and through the charging system, the budget board expects to reel in $5.8 million dollars per year. Corrections officers and experts also maintain that phone communication availability will keep inmate morale up, allowing them contact with loves ones, and will prove to be a good incentive, reward, and punishment.




Source by Jared Jones

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