The cost of a phone call from the local jail in Jacksonville, Florida is astronomical. Global Tel Link (GTL) has a monopoly on providing those phone calls in Duval County and is charging exorbitant rates to those who are desperate to speak with their loved ones. And don’t think it can’t happen to you. On any given day at any given time any one of us can be arrested. And for those who can’t afford to bond out, that phone call is the only live link to family.
When mom or dad is arrested, it can be just as traumatic to a kid as death or divorce. That phone call is the only way to hear the reassuring voice of a parent and GTL reaps humongous profits by gouging those who need to touch by phone. And for too many families, those calls are unaffordable. Although we’ve heard the argument that prison should be a harsh place so people won’t go back, these predatory prices are about making money, not being tough on crime. Reducing access to this crucial lifeline is dumb on crime. After all, prisoners who stay in touch with their families are actually less likely to re-offend but steep prices also mean many prisoners won’t be able to call home as often, and that’s bad news for public safety.
This is how families are being ripped off. An advanced pay account can be opened with a minimum of $25. However, for every $25 paid, $4.75 is deducted off the top for fees. So if you put $50 down, you pay a fee of $9.50. The cost of the standard 15 minute call is $2.50 plus a $.40 tax, $2.90 total. And it matters not if the call fails or terminates early, the cost is not prorated. That means you can talk for 2 minutes, lose your cell signal and it’s gonna cost you $2.90 period. And to close the account, there is a $5 refund fee. But if you only have $4.99 left in the account and there is no phone activity for 90 days, you forfeit that unused balance. It slips right into Global Tel Link’s bulging pockets. That’s smooth swindling!
This is a billion dollar industry and countless families fall prey to the GTL monster who attacks at a time when families are the most vulnerable. Veritas and Goldman Sachs purchased Global Tel*Link in 2009 for $345 million and sold it to American Securities two years later for $1 billion. That’s a $655 million dollar return on their investment for ‘jail talk’. GTLs chief competitor, Securus Technologies, holds the patent for this industry and is currently suing Global Tel Link for patent infringement since their agreement expired August 2013 and GTL didn’t renew. That means that we are currently contracted with a phone service provider that is currently operating illegally in Duval County and everywhere else.
Forgotten Majority brought this issue to the attention of the Jacksonville City Council on April 22, 2014 where a lone Council member stated he’d look to see if the Sheriff’s Office was receiving commissions (kick backs) from GTL. Sadly, we’ve heard nothing since and nothing has changed, truly there’s no incentive to cap rates. States like New York ban kickbacks and require the lowest possible cost to the user. And their low rates do not preempt call monitoring and other security measures. We need only follow their example. Even The Federal prison system charges comparatively low rates ($.06/minute for local calls) and they still generated $34 million in profit in 2010.
There is still profit to be made in this industry without racketeering rampantly. For those who are sick and tired of being financial targets for crooked companies who profit by ripping off families in crisis, we are petitioning the City Council to require Global Tel Link to set a fair rate or get out of Jacksonville. We will present Council with 500 petitions demanding fair rates for local jail calls. The date for this presentation will be posted on the site along with the results. If further action is required, all locals who have signed the petition will be contacted via email with next steps.
Feel free to use/modify the script above and start your own petition if you live anywhere Global Tel Link reigns.
Click this link to sign the petition: http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/globaltellink