Opposing points of view: Higher prisoner phone rates fair, beneficial to all.
12:53 AM, Oct. 13, 2011
From the Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/article/20111013/OPINION05/110130442
While it is true that prisoner phone rates have recently increased 8 cents a minute, it is important to note that our rates are still well below the vast majority of other states. In addition to charging less than most of the country, we now have an avenue available to set aside funding to purchase equipment that will make our prisons safer.
As part of the new contract, all telephones were replaced at all correctional facilities. Also, many facilities received additional telephones. That was done to ensure prisoners had adequate opportunity to use the phones without lengthy wait times. The added phones, along with many new circuits, will help alleviate the "all circuits are busy" message frequently heard at some facilities.
We certainly recognize and understand the importance of prisoners maintaining a relationship with family, friends and supporters in the community. In addition to generally assisting in the rehabilitative process, having a support system in place when prisoners return home greatly increases their chances for success following release from prison.
With this in mind, prisoners are allowed to send and receive unlimited mail and can make unlimited telephone calls to individuals on their approved list. They also can receive up to eight in-person visits per month and receive electronic messages.
In December 2010, the Michigan Department of Technology Management and Budget awarded a new contract for the operation of the Michigan Department of Corrections prisoner telephone system to Public Communication Services (PCS). The five-year contract was signed and became effective in February.
The prior contract for operation of the prisoner phone system was with Sprint/Embark and had been in place since July 2001.
The new contract was awarded on a base call rate for collect and prepaid calls. The contract was also set up to allow the MDOC to select optional services. We selected two optional services: a special search feature that allows staff to more quickly search inmate phone records, and a special equipment fund that allows MDOC to set aside funds to purchase equipment that will enhance the safety and security of our correctional facilities.
This equipment will benefit our staff, volunteers, visitors, prisoners and the general public.
Prior to the new contract, prisoner telephone rates were 12 cents a minute for collect calls and 10 cents a minute for prepaid calls. Michigan then had the fifth lowest prisoner phone rates in the country.
Now, with the new base rate and the two additional optional services, the rate for prisoner telephone calls is 20 cents a minute for collect calls and 18 cents a minute for prepaid calls.
Michigan now has the 11th lowest prisoner phone rates in the country. By comparison, Ohio has a rate of 34 cents a minute; Indiana 35 cents a minute; Illinois 40 cents a minute, and Pennsylvania 41 cents a minute.
We feel MDOC's current rates are fair, appropriate and reasonable.
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