What we have found suggests that rates for calls from inmates to their families and fees added to bills are extreme compared to rates for calls on the outside. These high charges raise legal and moral issues. The commission is asking whether the rates and add-on fees are authorized under our current regulations.
From a moral and practical standpoint, the issue is whether these high phone fees prevent inmates from communicating with family members on the outside. Corrections experts agree that family connections are vital to the rehabilitation of inmates and their ability to adjust to life after prison.
Nearly 40,000 people are incarcerated on a long-term basis in Louisiana prisons. A state Department of Corrections official recently told a legislative committee that Louisiana is “number one in the world” in incarceration.
There are more than 170 state and local prisons in Louisiana -- 11 operated by the Louisiana DOC and more than 160 run by parish and city governments.
Prisoners and their families have no choice on the company they use to communicate. That choice is made by the state DOC, the local sheriff or the jail operator.
Rates are very high.
A 10-minute daytime call from Shreveport to Natchitoches is $4.65.
A 10-minute daytime call from Baton Rouge to Gonzales is $4.65.
A 10-minute daytime call from the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison to a house across the street is $1.81.
The average cost of all calls from prisons in Louisiana exceeds $3 for a 10 minute call. That is 30 cents a minute -- compared to 2 cents on the outside.
Other southern states are lower than Louisiana. Texas is about $2.68 for the average 10 minute call and Florida is about $1.21.
New York is the lowest cost for that average 10-minute call at 48 cents – 4.8 cents a minute. Jail telephone companies often add questionable charges on top of these high rates. For example, families are charged for opening a telephone account ($6.95) or getting a refund for unused calling time ($5). The commission is investigating whether these added charges violate PSC orders.