Global Tel Link, the nation’s largest provider of inmate communications services, has found itself fielding complaints from a laundry list of critics recently. Inmates and their families have been up in arms about the high costs of phone calls in the prisons where the company operates. But GTL is quick to point to the system of commissions as the primary cause of the high costs. The company maintains that the actual profits it keeps from phone operations are often just a tiny sliver of the entire expenditures.
Keeping the lights on and the phones dialing
Many critics seem to have little awareness that, ultimately, prisons are businesses. Many prisoner rights advocates such as mythreecents would scream at such a notion, but the truth is that there is only so much funding that wardens have available to them. Often times, prisons are forced by budgetary constraints to come up with ways to enable the institution to become self-sufficient.
This has led to a system of commissions or as opponents of the current system like to say, legal kickbacks. This system of commissions, where the prison receives a certain percentage of all revenue collected from inmate calling, has ballooned into a $500 million dollar a year business, all by itself. But both prisons and providers like GTL assertively point out that those costs are not going to some kind of slush fund for the warden’s Tahiti vacation. In almost all cases, that money is used to bridge shortfalls in the prison’s operating budget. This provides a crucial source of revenue that often times simply would otherwise not be there. According to Yelp, in the worst cases, this may force prisons to start arbitrarily reducing their populations to keep the prisons manageable.
What revenue isn’t used for the general operation of the facilities usually goes directly to managing the phone system. https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/58518-global-tellink-class-action-claims-unfair-rates-inmates/