Texas Lowers Cost of Inmate Phone Calls

The Texas Board of Criminal Justice approved a decrease to the cost of calls for inmates from .26 cents to .06 cents per minute effective September 1, 2018.

Texas signed a new contract with CenturyLink which will make a typical 15-minute phone call cost .90 cents instead of $4.00 from the previous provider.

Phone call limits will also increase from 20 minutes to 30 minutes.

CenturyLink will install new technology which will allow for the lower cost of calls and allow for video visitation from major metropolitan areas to rural area prisons.

Last year a federal court struck down an Obama-era Federal Communications Commission rule that would have prevented providers from charging more than .11 cents per minute.

State Rep. James White, states that the state is “making some very significant changes that will impact recidivism, rehabilitation, and ultimately will increase safe communities in Texas.”

“The new (offender telephone system) contract is going to benefit not only the family of offenders who are hoping to stay connected, but enhance the agency’s focus on re-entry,” said prison system executive director Bryan Collier. “The system is used to maintain relationships with friends and family that are a vital part of a successful re-entry and reintegration of offenders into the community.”

Under state law, the revenue from the inmate phone system is split 60/40 with 60 percent going to the contractor and 40 percent going to the state, mostly the Texas Crime Victims Fund.

According to TDCJ, last year the inmate phone calls brought in nearly $15 million for the state. The first $10 million must go to the Texas Crime Victims Compensation Fund.  After that first $10 million, half goes to the victim’s fund and the other half goes to the state’s general fund.

None of the money from the inmate phone system goes back to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or the prison system.

CenturyLink was awarded a seven-year contract.

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