I recently have counseled two friends who were incarcerated at the Missoula County Detention Facility. It was a very rewarding experience but, alas, very expensive.
The county or the Sherriff’s department has negotiated a very poor contract with the phone vendor, ICSolutions. Let me illustrate with some numbers.
All calls are prepaid, which is fine, but to add money to a phone there is a $3 fee. This is a flat rate regardless of the amount added so cannot be considered a credit card processing fee. It is $.21 to connect a call and $.$21 a minute to talk. There is a 15 minute limit so that amount of time will cost at least $3.36. That adds up quickly. I remember when payphones were a dime.
Off-site video chat is $15 and the quality is poor. If you cannot connect you are not refunded butust call Customer Service.
By comparison, DOC calls are $.14 per minute for 25 minues and video is $5.50.
How did Missoula County get such a bad deal?
In a civil society a jail is a necessary evil. It is included in the cost of a just society. In no manner should Missoula County use any part of the jail as a revenue stream and you as Commissioners should be very wary of the for-profit jail industry.
Communication with others from jail is a necessity to maintain mental health, prepare for release and re-entry, and work towards decreasing recidivism. I understand there are cost associated with monitoring calls, but recording them is cheap (memory costs little) and utilizing VOiP reduces the per minute cost of calls to almost zero.
Missoula has a bad deal, and inmates and their support systems are paying the cost.