Who’s Being Ripped Off? Inmates Pay Huge Fees for Phone Calls, Emails

Photo (cc) by abardwell

Many inmates in the U.S. are held prisoner by more than the bars that confine them. They’re prisoner to the high costs of keeping in contact with the outside world.

Private businesses, like Global Tel-Link and JPay, control telecommunication services at countless prisons across the nation. They’re charging inmates and their families’ huge fees to send an email, make a phone call or send a money transfer. According to The New York Times:

These companies are part of a new breed of businesses flourishing inside American jails and prisons. Many of these players are being bankrolled by one of the most powerful forces in American finance: private equity. Private investment firms have invested many billions of dollars in the prison industry, betting — correctly — that it is a growth business.

It’s a lucrative business, as these companies are typically untouched by consumer regulations, the Times said. And state and local governments benefit by taking a cut of the revenues. Prisoners are charged upward of 33 cents to send one email and $3.15 to make an in-state telephone call.

In an effort to make it easier for inmates to keep in touch with their families, the ACLU launched a successful campaign with the Federal Communications Commission in 2013 to stop price gouging.

“Prisoners are charged up to $17 for a 15-minute phone call — a call that might cost $2 outside of prison,” the ACLU said. The FCC ended up capping the price of interstate prisoner calls at 25 cents per minute, but calls within states are still unregulated. According to the ACLU:

Phone companies shouldn’t be able to profit off prisoners trying to be good parents and good family members. Steep prices mean many prisoners won’t be able to call home as often, and that’s bad for public safety — when prisoners keep in touch with their families, they are less likely to re-offend and wind up back behind bars.

Companies like Global Tel-Link claim they need to charge high rates because of security concerns. “Inmates’ access to financial services, telephones and the Internet is limited and, in most cases, monitored by providers,” the Times said.

The high cost of keeping in contact with the outside world has spurred a number of inmates to file suits, challenging the exorbitant rates.

What do you think of the high fees inmates and their families are paying? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
13 Affordable Products for a Better Night’s Rest
13 Affordable Products for a Better Night’s Rest

These Amazon products can help you finally catch 40 winks — or more.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

This Is the Best Time of Day to Take Blood Pressure Meds
This Is the Best Time of Day to Take Blood Pressure Meds

The right timing can help you prevent a big — and possibly fatal — mistake.

Retirees Can Dodge Taxes on These 9 Types of Income
Retirees Can Dodge Taxes on These 9 Types of Income

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

12 Expenses You May Be Tempted to Claim as Tax Deductions — but Shouldn’t
12 Expenses You May Be Tempted to Claim as Tax Deductions — but Shouldn’t

Thinking of trying to deduct a few of these things on your federal tax return? That could be a costly mistake.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk
Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk

A new study finds that wearing a cloth mask can backfire if you don’t clean it properly.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.