Houston County Jail Stops In Person Visits In Favor Of $540,000 In Phone And Video Visitation Charges

For several years Houston County Jail has made it increasingly difficult for those held in the jail to be visited by their loved ones all be it behind glass as the governors of the jail insisted on a maximum security, no physical contact policy. Now their motive has been revealed as the county commission has approved a contract with Legacy Inmate, negotiated in December 2014 to handle the jail’s phone system. The contract will allegedly create a guaranteed revenue of $540,000 over three years, of which the county will receive 90 percent. Legacy also agreed to provide inmate video communication systems at no additional cost to the county.

“This contract is up every three years,” said county administrator Bill Dempsey. “The video system will be ours after the three-year period.” The $540,000 guaranteed revenue is about $200,000 more than the bid put in by previous provider GTL.

Recently the Prison Policy Initiative exposed shocking billing practices that cause the actual call charges to be far higher than the nominal published rates, and the costs are making it harder for incarcerated people to stay in touch with people outside prison and jail it also harms incarcerated people, their families and communities, and society at large. Affordable phone calls are directly related to the safety and well-being of all communities because communication reduces the likelihood that incarcerated people will commit another offense after their release. This uncontroversial proposition has been endorsed by Congress, the American Bar Association, the American Correctional Association, the federal Bureau of Prisons, state legislatures, and state regulatory agencies. Unfortunately, opportunities for government and private profit from prison telephone calls are clouding out this common-sense principle, and communities are suffering to fill the phone industry’s coffers.

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