Global Tel Link has become the nation’s number-one provider of inmate telephone services. But it has been a long, hard road for the company. GTL has been forced into conflict after conflict with rabid critics, many of whom despise the role that any corporations play within the U.S. prison system.
Lately, the firm has been dealing with increasingly vocal opponents of the high rates that some inmates have to pay to make phone calls. These are generally contained to areas where the prisons themselves take unusually high commissions. But the arguments the critics make are still quite powerful and have proven a gigantic public relations headache for GTL and the other companies that work in the prison telephone space.
More than just an inconvenience
Inmates and their families are frequently upset by the high costs of staying in touch across prison walls. Rates in the U.S. prison system span a huge spectrum, ranging anywhere from $1.22 per minute to just 5 cents per minute, reveals the ACLU. In states like Arizona, where the prison system has traditionally taken large commissions from phone calls and views them as an essential source of revenue, the families of inmates often end up paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month, just to stay in touch with their loved ones.
However, that’s not the only reason that high calling rates may be bad. An increasingly large body of research indicates that inmates’ ability to stay in touch with their loved ones on the outside of prison is a key factor in lowering recidivism and promoting good outcomes upon release.
But GTL points out that the revenues generated for prisons in these overpriced markets are often times crucial to their budgets. In many cases, lowering rates would result in cash shortfalls that would result in the phones having to be removed, due to security concerns.