NY - A bill just introduced in the State Legislature will hopefully put an end to a sweetheart deal between the state Department of Correctional Services and a phone company that has been exploiting the families of prison inmates for almost a decade.
It would forbid the prison agency from renewing its contract with MCI to provide phone service to the inmates of almost 70 prisons - but which charges their relatives and friends six times the rates that you and I pay.
State inmates are only allowed to make collect calls, for which the accepting party pays a $3 connection fee, plus 16 cents a minute. Regular customers dialing direct pay from 3 to 5 cents a minute, with no connection fee.
MCI charges these hugely inflated rates, then gives back more than 57 percent of these fees to the Department of Correctional Services. Which means that inmates' families - who have committed no crimes themselves - are subsidizing the prison system to the tune of about $25 million a year, according to the Campaign for Telephone Justice, a coalition of private groups who want to get rid of the current system.