Public Service Commission Reduces Cost of Prison Calls!
I’ve written before about the policy of overcharging inmates and their families for phone calls. This issue easily gets my blood boiling. For most inmates, the phone is the only way to contact loved ones, attorneys, friends, etc.
The sides were clearly drawn when the Louisiana PSC met to discuss the high rates inmates and family members pay to talk to each other through the prison phone system.
On the one hand are the Sheriffs around Louisiana, who testified that lowering the rates across the board for inmates making calls would have a strong deleterious effect on their budgets.
On the other side are the families, clergy members, and other interested parties who argued that the families of the incarcerated are the ones who pay for the expensive calls. Also on this side was Robert Tasman, associate director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose organization backed the effort to lower prison phone rates.
The four hour meeting could be described as raucous at times, as both sides stuck to their guns. The Sheriffs certainly felt they were losing some revenue they needed. Inmates are charged more because their phone calls are monitored.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand condemned what he called the villainization of sheriffs for seeking the highest phone rate to help lower general costs. Normand said his office makes about $1 million/year from prisoner phone calls, and about $830,000 is profit used to defray other costs.
The Executive Director of the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, Mike Ranatza, said the per diem sheriffs receive per inmate per diem from the state and local government but those funds don’t cover the costs of housing the inmates. Outside revenue sources are necessary to make up the difference, according to Ranatza.
Reducing the phone call cost by 25% results in a new rate of $2.29/10 minutes. Commissioner Lambert Boissiere made a compromise suggestion, limiting the new rate to calls to family, clergy, the government, schools, legal aid, rehabilitative organizations, and other specifically named entities. Boissiere added that the exact definitions would have to be worked on. Other calls would remain the same.
I hope that besides for legal aid, attorneys with clients in jail should be on the list!