Tips & Facts

How ICS Providers Avoid Paying Interstate Commissions

Have you ever actually tried to read an Inmate Phones contract? It’s about as easy as opening a clam with your bare hands. Generally speaking, U.S. contract law is not meant to be understood by the average person (or person, really), but whenever a large amount of money is at stake, the legalese is bound to be even muddier. For correctional facilities, this can mean losing out on thousands of dollars due to small, seemingly innocuous, but confusing clauses. For example, how would you interpret the following contract provision regarding interstate calling?

*Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Agreement, In accordance with Federal Communications Commission 47 CFR Part 64 [WC Docket No. 12-375; FCC13-113] – Rates for Interstate Calling Services – effective February 11, 2014, no commission shall be paid on revenues earned through the completion of Interstate calls of any type placed from the Facility(s).”

So what do you think? Would it be reasonable to conclude that an FCC ruling exists that prevents commissions from being paid on interstate calls? It would certainly seem so.

This is an actual clause that’s been included in hundreds of inmate phone contracts, and is still widely used by many major ICS providers. It has also cost county jails nationwide countless dollars in lost commissions. And that’s a shame, considering it basically means “We’re not paying you because we don’t want to.”

Let’s look a little closer to see if the FCC Ruling itself might shed some light here. The FCC did in fact take action to limit rates for interstate calling services, and that action was dated effective February 11, 2014, but nowhere in that ruling (and I do mean nowhere) did the FCC take any action directly against commissions being paid for the interstate call type. (You can download the ruling here).

It’s just not true that the FCC prevents Inmate Phone Companies from paying commissions on interstate call revenue. The FCC has stated that “site commissions do not constitute a legitimate cost to the providers of providing ICS,” but that’s an entirely different assertion. (The exact wording comes from this 2016 FCC rule).

Legitimate costs can be passed through without markup to the end consumer — credit card transaction fees are a great example. But because ICS providers can’t pass their commission payments through like other legitimate costs, some providers use the FCC ruling as an excuse for not paying interstate commissions at all.

And that would be okay, if these ICS providers were honest about what they are doing. Instead, they try to fool the County by framing this negotiable topic as predetermined by the FCC. Maybe you’ve heard this line before: “Sorry Sheriff, we can’t pay you an interstate commission because the FCC won’t let us.”

In reality, your providers are really saying: “We’d rather keep all this interstate call revenue for ourselves.” They’re just using the FCC as a scapegoat.

Here’s the bottom line. The FCC won’t let ICS providers charge more than $0.21 per minute on interstate debit/prepaid calls, and commissions on those calls can’t be passed through to the end-consumer. If your ICS provider isn’t efficient enough to make a profit under these circumstances (or if they just don’t want to share any of the revenue with you), maybe it’s time to renegotiate your agreement — or find a provider that pays you a fair commission on true gross billed revenue.

Tips & Facts

Bound at the Hip: Technology and Creativity

Are you a left brain or a right brain person? Creative or logical? Artsy or technical?

This sort of dualistic thinking is common in everyday conversation. People pride themselves on being one way or the other. However, according to postdoctoral fellow Roger Beaty at Harvard University, this type of thinking is actually a lingering myth.

Using a recently developed method in functional brain imaging analysis, Beaty found that creativity relies on a network of various parts of the brain. It relies on the connectivity of three different brain areas (not simply right or left); the default mode network, the salience network and the executive network. A creative person engages all three areas in beautiful synchronicity to solve problems.

And problem solving is the reason that we as a civilization have most of the technology that’s around today.

Combining Technology and Creativity

It has been happening since the creation of our world’s simplest technological achievements. As humans, we see a problem—we are unable to break open a coconut, the antelope are too far away or too fast for us to catch, this load of wood is too heavy to carry—and then we create technology to solve the problem—the hammer, the spear, the wheel. Eureka!

Technology and creativity go hand in hand. In fact, according to Business Insider, creativity is ranked 3rd in the top skills that employers seek, moved up from 10th in 2015. This is especially true for tech companies. Employers want creative people who can apply new tech to new products and services. Tech companies will go out of their way to try and encourage more creativity in their employees.

So it’s easy to see how creativity influences technology, but the two have a mutually beneficial relationship. Modern available tech makes a heavy impression on creativity as well.

According to a Bentley article, creativity is a measurable quality. “We are all capable of being creative,” according to Monica Garfield, PhD, a computer information systems professor at Bentley. “With the use of the correct tools our innate skills can be enhanced and harnessed.”

Technology now plays a role in creative group settings. People creatively brainstorming for a project can express their ideas far more quickly and simultaneously through web forums and social media sites, rather than face-to-face meetings.

The social media world is also a place where artists can now share their individual work and artistic ideas online to mass populations, which breaks down conventional barriers.

According to studies from the Pew Research Center, art organizations tend to agree that “…the internet and social media have ‘increased engagement’ and made art a more participatory experience, and that they have helped make ‘arts audiences more diverse.’ They also tend to agree that the internet has ‘played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art.’”

Computing and Art

Technology and creativity also join hands in the digital and graphic arts world. Computing has expanded the fields of architecture, art, the history of art, music, theater studies and many other areas.

Digital technologies are promoted as tools of artistic expression and have led to the creation of many different tools and apps that have become ever more accessible to the average person.

Digital art tools like Corel Painter, Rebelle and of course the more well-known Adobe Photoshop allow artists to expand their pallet and work in ways never before possible.

The video game industry continues to grow and is a perfect example of modern technology meeting creativity. Artists, animators, designers, developers and composers are all needed in video game production and all need to have some sense of creativity. Video game designers are allowed to be more and more creative and create more developed virtual worlds as technology continues to develop.

In the world of architecture, computing is necessary. Modern design tools like augmented reality and virtual reality can be used to give clients a better idea of what a finished building will look like. But according to a quote from Madeline Dring in Architecture Today, virtual reality technology has “quickly become a powerful design tool that can be used early on in the design process.”

The interweaving of technology and creativity has reached a point where it is hard to tell which causes which, a sort of chicken-and-the-egg situation.

The quick advance of art accessibility does cause concern for some within the art community. Worries include: shorter attention spans of audiences, the collapse of traditional art displaying methods such as museums, live music and even books which are being replaced with e-books (even this blog post isn’t found in any physical paper format).

However, humans may just need to learn how to adapt to the change. The benefits that results from joining new technology and creativity outweigh any negative side effects.

The Benefits We Don’t Notice

It’s really quite amazing to see the connection between technology and creativity, especially at the larger level, but there are also smaller benefits that often go unnoticed.

Think about the amount of time that is saved just from the basic appliances we have today. For instance, hours are no longer wasted with a washboard scrubbing clothes by hand. Just pop ‘em in the machine. Cooking is faster. Information is delivered faster. Basically, all of the leisure time that allows us to have a creative space is due to the progression of technology.

And just as this free time allowed for the exponential creation of further new technologies, so too the digital world frees people to be more creative and build off of the latest technologies. It’s something we don’t really think about once the access is there. When was the last time you thought about how convenient it really is to be able to check your e-mail through your phone?

An article from the International Youth Foundation stresses the importance of creativity as a life skill. We are living in an age with an unprecedented rate of change. Creativity coupled with complex problem-solving skills allows for the understanding of information and the ability to make decisions as dynamics shift rapidly.

Being resilient in the face of this quickly evolving world requires creativity and the right frame of mind. Access to the latest technology allows people to build off of the old ways more effectively and find their place in the new world.

Creativity in this new world of technology is essential and to be creative within it requires an understanding of technology. The two concepts are tightly intertwined, just like the wrinkles of the mind.

Correctional Insights

Journalists Facing Hard-Time Abroad

“I was in a solitary cell for five days, only allowed one hour in the courtyard. You could go crazy after a while,” Asli Erdoğan wrote of her time in a Turkish jail. “I spent 48 hours without water when I first arrived. I was in shock, which worked a bit like an anesthetic.”

Erdoğan, a Turkish writer/journalist, was arrested for terrorist propaganda in 2016. Wordsmiths, like Erdoğan, have a hard time expressing opinions in their own country, let alone a foreign one.

Journalists can incur the wrath of the public by investigating events, writing less-than popular opinion pieces or by criticizing the wrong people. Reporters travel the world to cover events and interesting topics, like a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse or a civil war in Syria. It’s a sad fact of life that they aren’t always safe while working overseas.

Press Rights are Important for Freedom

While journalists from all backgrounds are subjected to scrutiny, those from the United States get to enjoy certain freedoms which others may not. The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution outlines the freedom of the press. This amendment essentially allows U.S. citizens to write about any subject without fear of imprisonment, though that is not always true.

Founding fathers of the U.S., James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, started the National Gazette to criticize officials and their newly-formed government. Freedom of the press has been essential since the founding of the United States and continues to be pertinent to the American way of life. While Americans may be able to criticize their government and live without fear, doing the same in other countries can carry significant consequences. However, the rest of the world isn’t only worse-off compared to America.

Though the U.S. has freedom of the press, it isn’t even in the top ten countries with the most press freedom. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Jamaica, Belgium, New Zealand, Denmark and Costa Rica make up the top ten countries with the best freedom of press laws. The United States sits at 45 in 2018, which is a decrease from 43rd place in 2017. China, Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea are the bottom five countries with the worst freedom of press laws.

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, there are currently four imprisoned journalists and 36 who have been attacked here in the U.S. These figures are small potatoes compared to Turkey’s 73 imprisoned journalists and China’s 41. So while we may not be the best, we’re far from being the worst.

Turkey has Largest Number of Imprisoned Journalists

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule has been problematic for journalists as well as academics, elected government officials and human rights workers.

According to IRIN, “50,000 people have been jailed for suspected ties to the attempted takeover.”

A coup was started in July 2016 which resulted in mass imprisonments and overcrowded prisons. Journalists, like Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, have been jailed for allegedly sending concealed messages to those who participated in the attempt to overthrow Erdoğan. The brothers face the possibility of life in prison.

“Allegations of torture and mistreatment in prisons have also increased over the last year. Prisoners have reported being held in stress positions over prolonged periods, while also being subjected to sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual abuse, and threats of rape,” wrote IRIN staff.

Agencies in charge of the oversight of prison conditions have been disbanded since the coup, which has allowed the Turkish prison administrations and guards to operate without constraint.

Turkish political prisoners are reported to be treated more harshly than other prisoners since Erdogan became president. They are often transferred to prisons far from their family and court proceedings, thus weakening their resolve and defense.

Sometimes journalists aren’t subjected to hard-time while abroad, only to experience horrifying treatment within their home countries.

Journalists experience hard-time abroad

American journalists do have a hard-time abroad and face comparatively little resistance within the U.S. When American journalists are captured or arrested, it is widely-broadcast across the country.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two journalists from the United States, were arrested in North Korea in 2009. The duo was accused of entering the country illegally in March 2009 and later found guilty. Lee and Ling were on assignment reporting about North Korean women being trafficked out of the country.

According to an Associated Press article, “The Central Court in Pyongyang sentenced each to 12 years of ‘reform through labor’ in a North Korean prison after a five-day trial, KCNA said in a terse, two-line report that provided no further details. A Korean-language version said they were convicted of ‘hostility toward the Korean people.’”

North Korea is vastly different from every other country in the world as their leader, Kim Jong-Un, is fiercely private about the way their country works. The borders are heavily guarded, and all punishments are severe.

Lim Hye-jin, a former North Korean prison guard, described the inner workings of the North Korean prison system in The Daily Mail. If found guilty of some crime, the punishment is often hard labor. Within the prison, prisoners are often beaten, tortured, raped or killed. Punishments can be collective, as to warn other inmates not to repeat anything perceived as wrongdoing. Hye-jin said most guards did not see prisoners as people and treated them horrendously.

While Lee and Ling were released before being sent to a hard labor camp, they could have faced similar punishments. Not only do journalists face a hard-time abroad, tourists can as well, in cases like Otto Warmbier’s and Kenneth Bae’s.

Reuters journalists jailed for archaic law

Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are two journalists working for Reuters, an international news agency. The pair are from Myanmar and cover controversial issues within the country.

In December 2017, Soe Oo and Lone, were investigating the massacre of Rohingya villagers in the Rakhine state at the hands of the Myanmar military. The Rohingya are an ethnic minority group and predominantly practice Islam in a largely Buddhist country.

The two journalists met police for a meal after which they were arrested on suspicion of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, due to their possession of information about the Rakhine state. They pleaded not guilty and were held in custody for more than 300 days.

After suspicious happenings throughout the proceedings by officials, the Reuters journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison on Sept. 3. There has been no information to where they are or how they will be detained.

Myanmar’s most notorious jail for political prisoners, Insein, is widely-known for its torture and inhumane treatment of inmates.

A former inmate, Philip Blackwood, was in Insein for more than a year. At the beginning of his sentence, he was kept in a small cell with no windows and a hole leading to an open sewer for a toilet. Blackwood endured a hard-time abroad and lived through a nightmare of less-than livable conditions in a prison known for its inhumanity.

For a free world to prosper, there must be freedom of press. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved.”

Journalism itself faces a hard-time abroad in countries that oppress voices critical of power. Reading and writing contribute to societies by offering alternative perspectives, whether it be a first-person account of a war zone or retelling tales of an elderly person’s youth. These alternative perspectives must be protected in order for humanity to progress.

Freedom of speech has been restricted in every country across the world at some point in history, and the free-thinkers are always the persecuted.

Tips & Facts

How to Recruit Correctional Officers Who Don’t Quit

A company is only as good as the employees that they hire, so finding the right person for the job is a vital, sometimes tedious, task. For many jail administrators, this task of recruiting and hiring correctional officers can often be all the more onerous. If you want to know how to recruit the best of the best, you’ve got to understand the position.

Being the thankless job that it is, the role of being a correctional officer comes with some big shoes to fill. Finding candidates whose skill sets and priorities align with the job description is a good place to start, but there are other crucial elements to keep on your radar when you’re learning how to recruit correctional officers who don’t quit.

Hiring Good Candidates

Knowing and understanding how to hire the right person for the job takes time and practical applicability. In order to do this effectively, one must first know how to recruit the right kind of candidates. Much of this involves having a firm understanding of the job description and advertising through the appropriate avenues. These avenues may include LinkedIn, job listing sites like Indeed, and even local newspapers and flyers.

After appropriate avenues have been selected, it’s important to have all of the candidate qualifications and prerequisites clearly established. According to’s post, standard requirements for correctional officers include, “Be at least 18 years of age, possess a high school diploma or GED, have no previous felony convictions, be a United States citizen, and possess a valid driver’s license.”

When you know how to recruit good people, everything else starts to fall into place. Although cognitive and educational requirements are important, it is equally salient to have a clear description of the best personality fit for the position. When it comes to hiring correctional officers, this personality might want to stress the desire for a person who portrays high critical thinking skills, self-discipline, good judgment, physical strength, and negotiation and interpersonal skills.

According to Chron’s article, Qualities of a Successful Correctional Officer, the top four characteristics that are sought after when recruiting correctional officers include, “observation skills, physical fitness, impartiality and communication skills.” It is vital that these personality characteristics are taken into account in the hiring process in order to ensure that the individual undertaking the job will be successful.

Why Correctional Officers Quit

Part of knowing how to recruit great officers is an awareness of what makes your position unappetizing. Ever walk down the halls at work perpetually anticipating the next time you’ll get physically attacked by a mentally ill person? Odds are, you probably haven’t. Unfortunately, these kind of unpleasant encounters are all too familiar for correctional officers.

While placing an emphasis on recruiting correctional officers is essential, retention must also be at the forefront of every administrator’s mind, as this has become a recent ongoing issue. Harriet Fox touches on this issue, stating, “With retention issues, we may have understaffing, morale issues, diminished job satisfaction, and a decrease in organizational effectiveness.” With this issue comes the domino effect leading to a plethora of other issues.

So what exactly causes a low retention rate of correctional officers? The Marshall Project delved deep in an attempt to answer this question by analyzing online reviews from correctional officers. The officers were asked to answer honestly on their opinions of their jobs, and many of their answers most definitely did not glamorize the work.

For instance, in the article, What Prison Guards Really Think About Their Jobs, it was stated that a common sentiment was that “Prison administrators turn a blind eye to understaffing, low pay, and safety.” While it’s no secret that many people feel less than satisfied with their work hours and pay, fearing for your own safety every day on the job is a whole different story.

In fact, in July this past year, an officer in the Stillwater, MN prison quit after his fellow officer was beaten and killed by an inmate. Joe Miller, who had spent 13 years guarding Minnesota’s most dangerous criminals, walked away from a competitive salary and benefits out of respect for his friend and his own sanity.

Miller shared a warning another officer gave him years ago when these violent outbreaks began, saying, “We keep getting more and more inmates to Stillwater and not enough corrections officer someone is going to get hurt or killed.” Understaffing is a serious issue amongst the general workforce, but when it places employees in danger, there’s no question that it must be addressed.

Keeping Stress at Bay

For years, doctors have preached the importance of a good diet and loads of sleep for a healthy life. More recently, greater emphasis has been placed on keeping stress in check. The real secret to feeling like a million bucks? Start meditating or join a yoga class, because that’s where the money’s at! Only joking; there are plenty of mindfulness exercises you can perform without spending a dime.

However, instituting mindfulness exercises for your staff may be a great way to reduce turnover. Managing stress is crucial for officers in order to perform their best work, and these exercises are a great way to do that. According to Forbes, “stress in the workplace can be costly because it affects not just individual well-being but also organizational performance.”

In the general workforce, stress can be triggered by a multitude of things, whether it be meeting a deadline, conflicting interests with coworkers, or not meeting a quota. For correctional officers, these triggers could include handling multiple responsibilities, pay dissatisfaction, or fear of their own and others’ safety. Since it is important that our correctional officers perform their very best on duty, stress management is vital. Perhaps these issues could be addressed if optional management training or employee assistance programs (EAP) are implemented. After all, happy CO’s, happy facility.


Dressing to Impress

An infographic depicting a well-dressed interviewee.

Knowing how to recruit the best candidates also requires knowing a little bit about fashion. According to Michigan State University’s Career Services Network, recruiters base their first impressions on the appearance of the candidate. After all, no company wants to hire employees who look disheveled and unhygienic, but this is especially crucial for correctional facilities.

In order to gain respect and approval for the title they’ve earned, it’s vital that correctional officers appear clean-cut and well groomed. This is non-negotiable.

Not only does this help establish their credibility, it builds the reputation of the prison they work for and creates incentive for other professional candidates to be recruited and hired. touches on the importance of a CO’s appearance, stating, “Sloppiness and unkemptness does not portray the image of someone who cares about the job… Inmates may attempt to take advantage of an officer they feel they can push around.” That familiar proverbial, “Confidence is Key” has never been more accurate.

Coping With Mental Illness

Mental illness, a once taboo subject, has finally earned its rightful spot at the forefront of public discourse. As many people have probably figured out on their own, it is proven that mental health has a direct impact on physical wellbeing. According to the Mental Health Foundation, “Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems…similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health.”

This is why it is essential for employees to stay on top of their physical and mental health. How can one properly concentrate and perform on the job when clouded with mental illness or suffering from physical ailments? They simply cannot, which is why this topic needs to be brought to light in prison facilities.

It seems only natural to assume that many prisoners living in incarceration face a great deal of mental illnesses, but what’s less-publicized is the amount of guards and officers who are plagued by this disease. Unfortunately, many correctional officers are faced with an increased risk of mental illness due to the requirements of their day to day duties. In the case where an officer at the Stillwater prison was beaten to death by an inmate, which sadly isn’t uncommon, Miller talked about the effects that wore on his mental stability.

According to the interview on CBS Local, “Miller says he couldn’t take the panic attacks anymore, and that he felt liked he’d grown into a different person…At a job where he says he felt all too often like the prisoner.”

Miller reflected on his decision to quit, saying he owed it to his sanity. What’s more, the mental state of prison employees can set the tone for the entire environment of the facility. The World Health Organization explains this phenomenon, stating, “A prison that is responsive to, and promotes the mental health of prisoners, is more likely to be a workplace that promotes the overall morale and mental health of prison staff and should therefore be one of the central objectives of good prison management.”

Measuring the Effectiveness of a Correctional Officers Test

Think just anyone can throw their name in the ring to be a correctional officer? Think again! Apart from having guts and patience, one must also pass the Correctional Officer Exam in order to land the job. The test covers three general areas: General Knowledge; Basic Skills; and Career-Specific Aptitude on professional standards, facility operations, inmate supervision, and other concepts in corrections. Other than being quite lengthy, the exam is notorious for being arduous.

In fact, according to, “Only a small percentage—roughly 3 to 4 percent of all applicants—proceed through the entire selection process, and the exam is one of the most common ares where applicants fail.” This exam is paramount in establishing the person’s cognitive and emotional tendencies before they are considered for hire. The effectiveness of this test has been proven time and time again to be superior.

Finding the right person for the job is essential, especially when a person’s job holds an immense amount of potential to influence others and their behavior. According to the American Bar Association, “It should be evident that we must select institutional personnel with regard to their ability to relate to inmates without hostility, without emotional dependence and untoward involvement and with a perceptiveness as to inmates’ motivations and needs.”

Never Stop Learning How to Recruit

Learning how to recruit correctional officers who don’t quit is a process, but it could possibly be the difference between life and death. The people you approve will a perform a role that requires as much responsibility as it does emotional fortitude. This is why knowing how to recruit and hire correctional officers is so valuable to jails and prisons.

By recruiting top of the line candidates for correctional officer positions, we can change the way prison facilities are run and, quite possibly, change lives. And once you’ve learned all there is to know about how to recruit great staff, you owe it to the next generation of jail administrators to pass that knowledge forward. That means teaching your staff how to recruit the best and brightest.

Correctional Insights

Why Inmate Phones are Not a Public Utility

Nearly a decade ago, a debate began in earnest as to whether or not inmate phone providers could be considered public utility companies. This discussion on rate regulation formally began with Illinois congressional representative Bobby L. Rush’s bill, HR 555, The Family Telephone Connection Protection Act of 2007. The bill was never enacted into law, but it brought into consideration the idea of regulating inmate telephone services.

Many people still feel strongly that the inmate phone industry requires more government regulation. A new bill introduced in March would grant the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulatory power over interstate inmate calls, and last November, the ACLU published a report concerning this issue. The idea that inmate phone calls have to be expensive is reprehensible to many people and organizations, including our Encartele. We disagree with our competitors about this point, but as industry experts, we are also well-acquainted with the hard costs and labor that go into building and maintaining these communication infrastructures.

There’s a very good reason why inmate phone companies cannot be regulated like public utilities. Simply put, the companies in question do not meet the legal definition of a public utility company. We agree with the ACLU that the inmate phones industry needs better government regulation, but we can’t operate like public utilities.

What is a Public Utility?

It’s an elusive concept, but understanding what a public utility is and is not makes up a crucial part of this discussion. The government’s authority to regulate public utilities has been questioned ever since FDR’s New Deal in the 1930’s, (Historia). Today, the turbulent techno-legal landscape of the U.S. makes this topic even trickier to discuss.

According to the Cornell Law School website (which pulls a definition from Nolo’s Plain English Law Dictionary):

“[A] public utility is any organization which provides services to the general public, although it may be privately owned. Public utilities include electric, gas, telephone, water, and television cable systems, as well as streetcar and bus lines. Public utilities are allowed certain monopoly rights because of the practical need to service entire geographic areas with one system, but they are regulated by state, county, and city public utility commissions under state laws.”

That’s a bit of a mouthful, so let’s break it down:

  1. A public utility provides the general public with a service.
  2. A public utility can be publicly or privately owned.
  3. A public utility requires government regulation, because they are allowed certain monopoly rights to service geographic areas with one system (also known as a natural monopoly).

You may have noticed that telephones were mentioned in that Cornell definition. So that means inmate phones are utilities too then, right? Wrong. There are a whole host of differences between both services. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Inmate Phones aren’t for the General Public

Every homeowner gets thirsty and needs water pumped into their homes, but not everyone needs to use an inmate phone provider. Some people will go their entire lives without ever receiving an inmate phone call, and that’s just the nature of the business. Inmate phone infrastructure and solutions were never intended for the general public’s use, they were designed by and for the corrections industry.

In addition, both services have very different expressed-use scenarios. Counties often use ITS solutions to facilitate rehabilitation among their detainees, while telephone service for the general public can be used in any number of ways. Public calls can be made at any hour of the day, whereas inmate phone calls are restricted to certain time periods for security reasons. The telephone service provider has no requirement to maintain and store call data for years and years after the call was initiated, for investigative purposes. Nor is the public utility telephone service obligated to cover the entire cost of their infrastructure regardless of whether a monopolistic region will be profitable or not.

Modern inmate telephone systems require a significant number of additional security features that ordinary phone service providers don’t need to develop or maintain. This is part of the reason why inmate phone calls are so much more expensive than regular phone calls.

According to a 2010 report from the Congressional Research Service, the exclusive contractual arrangements negotiated between jails and telephone service providers ensure security and allow them to monitor inmate phone calls. This report also stated that The National Sheriffs Association told Congress in 2009 that changing these arrangements could endanger public safety.


Inmate phone providers by definition are not utilities. We serve highly select populations, and our infrastructure is not accessible for general-purpose use by the public. As we mentioned above, Encartele agrees that inmate phone calls shouldn’t have to be expensive. That’s why we strive to offer affordable rates for all our services, especially CIDNET Mail.

That being said, we also understand that our industry faces some major challenges, mainly in the form of the high cost of commissions levied out in our contracts. If reform-minded organizations wanted to affect meaningful change for friends and family members of inmates, they’d call for something like a nationwide ITS commissions cap rather than utility regulation. Currently, ITS providers don’t compete based on the per-minute cost of the phone calls, they compete based on the commissions they can offer to counties. Capping these commissions would go a long way towards returning a true sense of competition to our industry, and reducing the per-minute cost of the phone call in the process.

Politicians and the ACLU are right about the per-minute costs of inmate calling being too high. Unfortunately, they’re wrong about the best way to lower them.