Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182
www.doccs.ny.gov

For immediate release:

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Prison system implementing new inmate collect call phone rates;
Reducing costs for the 83 percent of inmates furthest from home

The Department of Correctional Services will implement new revenue-neutral Inmate Call Home Program rates on Friday, August 1, that will reduce the phone bills paid by 83 percent of the recipients of those inmate-generated, collect-only calls, Commissioner Glenn S. Goord said today.

"The goal of the new rates is increased fairness that also allows recipients to know in advance the cost of these calls," Commissioner Goord said.

Virtually all inmate calls fall within three groups: intralata (within a local calling area), interlata (between calling areas) and interstate. International calls account for fewer than one percent of volume.

Under the new rate structure, charges paid by recipients of inmate collect calls will drop 6 percent for interlata calls that represent 70 percent of inmate calls. Interstate calls, which represent 13 percent of calls, will decline 9 percent. Intralata calls will double in cost. They represent 17 percent of inmate calls.

Commissioner Goord said, "Implementing fairness and equity has a cost: those who have the benefit of being most able to visit incarcerated loved ones - because they are housed closest to home - will see their telephone charges rise. But 83 percent of call recipients - whose loved ones are incarcerated furthest from home - will see rates drop. Whether the contact is by phone or personal visit, these rates reflect the Department's continuing commitment to fostering the family ties that most agree are important to helping offenders succeed upon their release from prison."

The statewide average per minute rate today for all inmate-generated calls is 16 cents - which now becomes the flat rate per minute standard for inmate-generated calls. At the same time, the Department equalized the connection fee paid by all inmates each time they use a phone. To accomplish those goals and make the changes revenue-neutral required:

  • Raising the cost of intralata calls from an average of nine cents to a flat rate of 16 cents per minute.
  • Raising the current intralata connection fee from $1.58 to the $3 charge already being assessed on all other calls.
  • Reducing the varying per-minute ranges for interlata and interstate calls by two and three cents per minute, respectively, to a flat rate of 16 cents per minute.

Commissioner Goord said, "Every inmate who picks up a phone and completes a call will now be charged the same connect fee. Fairness dictates that they should be, regardless of where they are calling. And as telecommunication advances reduce the size of our world, there is no longer a need for long-distance charges to vary based upon time of day or distance."

He noted that "Standardizing charges allows the recipients of calls to budget them because there will be one rate: Three dollars plus 16 cents per minute." There were 126 separate per-minute rates under the prior system, based upon area dialed (intralata, interlata or interstate) plus time of day and mileage distance.

The average length of inmate calls vary: 18.05 minutes for intralata calls, 18.60 minutes for interlata call and 18.69 minutes for interstate calls. Like all phone companies, the Inmate Call Home Program rounds any fraction to the next highest minute for billing purposes. Thus, those average calls were all billed as 19 minute calls. Under the new flat rates, the billing cost for a 19-minute inmate conversation will be $6.04 across the board - the $3 connect fee plus 16 cents per minute. That's compared to a current average 19-minute phone call cost of $6.44 for interlata calls, $6.63 for interstate calls and $3.02 for intralata calls.

Inmates completed nearly 7 million collect-only calls between September 2001 and August 2002, the base year used when computing the rate change plan. Those calls totaled more than 124 million minutes, generating gross revenues exceeding $39 million. The Department's commission rate is 57.5 percent on those revenues.

More than $5 million in commissions are being spent this year on inmate family-related programs, including $1.1 million for children and nursery programs at Bedford Hills and Taconic prisons for women, $414,000 to support the Family Reunion Program at 16 prisons, $809,540 to provide free buses to transport inmate visitors to prisons across the state, $494,000 for various prison visitor centers, $550,000 for a domestic violence program at Eastern and $81,000 for the medical parole program allowing terminally ill inmates to be released to die at home with their loved ones. Nearly $18 million in additional commissions anticipated this year are targeted for inmate medical care, tests, vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

Unlike residential phone users who pay roughly $30 per month in charges just to have a telephone, the Inmate Call Home Program pays all such charges for today's 66,909 inmates. In addition, restrictions and monitoring required on an inmate phone system incur charges that do not exist for residential phone customers.

"The security measures attached to the inmate phone system have two purposes," Commissioner Goord said. "To increase prison security and to enhance public safety."

The new rates have been approved by the state Public Service Commission. The Office of the State Comptroller has approved the updated contract with MCI, the vendor operating the Inmate Call Home Program, that incorporates the new rates with no other changes. Inmates were advised last month of the new rates via a memo posted in English and Spanish in all state prisons. Rate change notices were also published last month in newspapers as required by law.

A position paper - outlining the Inmate Call Home Program and its history, providing greater detail on security requirements and the impact of the rate changes - is available as a PDF  138 KB in the press release section of the Department's website at www.doccs.ny.gov.

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