It’s all about the incentives: Why a call home from a jail in New York State can cost 7 times more than the same call from the state’s prisons

by Katie Rose Quandt and Andrea Fenster, March 23, 2021

Families with loved ones incarcerated in New York State prisons pay some of the lowest phone fees in the entire country. Meanwhile, those with loved ones in the state’s county jails have some of the highest phone costs. How can this be?

It’s all about the incentives. In 2007, New York State passed progressive legislation requiring contracts between state prisons and private phone companies to be negotiated “for the lowest price to the consumer,” and prohibiting the department of corrections from accepting commissions on phone calls. (Nationwide, the commission-based structure of correctional phone calls is a major factor driving up costs for the consumer.) New York’s legislation, however, does not apply to county and city jails, meaning counties are free to choose the phone company that charges the most and kicks the most revenue back to the jail. As a result of this loophole, the average 15-minute call from a New York jail costs seven times more than an identical call from a state prison.

These exorbitant phone rates cost some the poorest residents of New York State — and a group disproportionately made up of women of color — more than $13 million a year just to talk to their jailed loved ones.1 The role played by counties in driving up these costs is clearly demonstrated in our new dataset of commission percentages paid by phone companies to New York county jails. We found that the majority of the cost of an average jail phone call — 64 cents on the dollar — is kicked back from the service provider to the county or jail. In some counties, as much as 86% of jail phone call revenue ends up in the pockets of the county government.2

Cost of a 15-minute phone call in New York county jails — and how much more affordable they could be without commissions

Throughout New York State, counties collect significant commissions from their jail phone providers, driving up costs for families. Here, we collected the current cost of a 15-minute, in-state phone call from each county’s jail, using the rate lookup tools on the phone providers’ websites on March 9, 2021. Unlike in other states, the vast majority of New York counties have chosen to contract with GTL.3 (The five counties of New York City are not included here because New York City made all jail calls free in 2019.)
In this table, we also calculated the hypothetical cost of a 15-minute call if commissions were waived, based on a scenario where a county waives its commissions and asks the phone provider to lower the call rate proportionately (for example, if Albany County waived its 86% commission, and the cost of the call dropped by 86%, from $7.50 to $1.05). In reality, a county that took such a step would likely also strike a harder bargain with the private phone company, reducing rates even further. In every county, we were able to find current phone rates on the phone providers’ websites. However, for some counties, we could not calculate the current commission rate or hypothetical cost of a phone call if commissions were waived, because the county did provide a contract in response to public record requests.
County Phone services provider Current cost of a 15‑minute phone call Hypothetical cost of a 15‑minute call if commissions were waived Kickback percentage in contract
Albany Securus $7.50 $1.05 86%
Allegany GTL $2.25 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Broome GTL $3.00 $1.68 44%
Cattaraugus GTL $9.95 $4.48 55%
Cayuga GTL $3.00 $1.35 55%
Chautauqua GTL $2.25 $1.17 48%
Chemung GTL $8.50 $3.83 55%
Chenango GTL $3.00 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Clinton GTL $3.75 $2.10 44%
Columbia GTL $2.25 Cannot calculate Contract does not specify commission amount
Cortland GTL $2.25 $1.01 55%
Delaware GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Dutchess GTL $9.95 $4.48 55%
Erie ICSolutions $3.15 $1.15 63.50%
Essex GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Franklin GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Fulton GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Genesee Securus $7.50 $1.50 80%
Greene GTL $9.95 $5.57 44%
Hamilton Frontier Communications $0.00 $0.00 0%
Herkimer GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Jefferson GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Lewis GTL $3.00 $1.35 55%
Livingston GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Madison GTL $9.95 $1.99 80%
Monroe Securus $1.50 $0.32 78.50%
Montgomery GTL $3.00 $1.68 44%
Nassau GTL $9.95 $4.58 54%
Niagara GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Oneida GTL $9.95 $5.47 45%
Onondaga ICSolutions $2.25 $0.79 65%
Ontario Securus $3.15 $1.10 65%
Orange GTL $9.95 $4.98 50%
Orleans ICSolutions $3.15 Cannot calculate Contract does not specify commission amount
Oswego GTL $3.75 $0.75 80%
Otsego GTL $2.25 $1.26 44%
Putnam GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Rensselaer GTL $2.25 $1.01 55%
Rockland GTL $9.95 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Saratoga GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Schenectady GTL $9.95 $4.48 55%
Schoharie GTL $3.00 $1.35 55% of billed or prepaid
Schuyler GTL $3.00 $1.35 55%
Seneca GTL $9.95 $1.99 80%
St. Lawrence GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Steuben GTL $9.95 $5.57 44%
Suffolk Securus $7.50 $1.05 86%
Sullivan Securus $7.50 $3.30 56%
Tioga GTL $9.95 $1.99 80%
Tompkins GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Ulster Securus $2.10 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Warren GTL $9.95 Cannot calculate Contract does not specify commission amount
Washington GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Wayne GTL $2.25 $1.26 44%
Westchester GTL $2.25 $0.86 62%
Wyoming GTL $2.40 $0.48 80%
Yates GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%

These high commissions translate to high costs for families. We found that in 2019, a 15-minute phone call from the average jail in New York was more expensive than the average jail phone call in 43 states. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If individual New York counties pledged to waive the income they earn off the backs of their poorest residents, the cost of a 15-minute phone call would instantly drop significantly. And if the state stepped in with legislation requiring jail phone contracts to be negotiated on the basis of the lowest cost to the consumer (like it already requires of prisons), the rates would go down even further.

In fact, there are several solutions that would reduce phone costs for families of jailed New Yorkers:

  1. Individual counties should immediately tell their provider they want to waive their commission and see the cost of phone calls proportionally reduced for the consumer. (This would ultimately benefit the counties themselves. Many people in jails will soon return to their communities, and studies show that maintaining close contact with family members is linked to better post-release outcomes and lower rates of recidivism.)
  2. Counties should, in their next contracts, refuse to take a commission, and should negotiate not on the basis of maximizing revenue for the county, but to lower the costs for families. Many contracts in New York counties are expiring in the next few years — some of which will automatically renew unless the county actively seeks a new provider and renegotiates. (See our Expiration Dates appendix for information on when your county’s contract is expiring.)
  3. When seeking a new contract, counties should put out separate Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for each service (such as phone calls, electronic messaging, and video visitation), instead of bundling these services together into a single RFP and contract. In fact, New York State should prohibit jails from signing bundled contracts for multiple services because it obscures the provider’s profits and the true cost of the contract. (For more on the harms of bundling see Footnote 2).
  4. Counties should consider going one step further and paying the cost of phone calls themselves, therefore making calls free for families. New York City became the first US jurisdiction to pick up the tab on jail calls in 2019.4 (This may be less expensive than it sounds. Cities or counties covering the total cost of phone calls can negotiate even lower rates, since the phone companies no longer need to do individualized billing.)
  5. New York State should extend its historic legislation that already bans commissions on phone calls in New York State prisons, and requires prison phone contracts to be negotiated for the lowest price to the consumer. Simply closing this loophole and applying the law to jails would save families at least $13 million on their phone bills.

 

Methodology & Appendices:

This analysis was made possible thanks to detailed public record requests made by George Dahlbender. This collection was supplemented by Andrea Fenster; Worth Rises also generously shared three additional contracts. Finally, although Schenectady and Sullivan counties did not respond to public record requests, we were able to find recent copies of their contracts on Muckrock.com, a nonprofit that helps people and organizations file and share record requests.

In the following four appendix tables, we have highlighted key information from the contracts and other documents that counties provided. We are also providing links to the contracts themselves so that journalists and other advocates can hold the counties accountable:

  1. Commissions pocketed by counties for phone, tablet, and video services
  2. Which counties have bundled contracts?
  3. Where are county kickbacks directed?
  4. When does each county’s contract expire?

Appendix 1: Commissions pocketed by counties for phone, tablet, and video services

This appendix table includes the commissions each county receives for phone calls and other services. Here, we have also provided access to the actual county contracts (and commission reports, where available) to other researchers and advocates. As you can see, the commission rate in a given county is often much higher for phones than for tablets and video services; as we’ve discussed in this article, providers often win contracts by paying huge phone commissions to the counties, while ensuring their own profits via low commissions on bundled services.
Phone Tablet Video Notes
County Provider Phone Commission Percent Additional Payments Guaranteed Minimum Payments Cite in
Document
Provider Commission Cite in
Document
Is commission contingent on 80% of the population having “reasonable access” to tablets? Provider Commission Cite in
Document
Albany Securus 86% One-time $115,000 signing bonus Pre-paid commissions of $1,200,000 in the first year, and $600,000 in each of the second and third year Agreement between the County of Albany and Securus Technologies, Inc. For Inmate Phone and Communication System at the Albany County Correctional Facility para. 3.1 – 3.2 Securus 10% for entertainment, 20% for E-Messaging Agreement between the County of Albany and Securus Technologies, Inc. For Inmate Phone and Communication System at the Albany County Correctional Facility para. 3.4 – 3.5 No Securus 20% Agreement between the County of Albany and Securus Technologies, Inc. For Inmate Phone and Communication System at the Albany County Correctional Facility para. 3.3
Allegany GTL Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Broome GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2, para. 4 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8
Cattaraugus GTL 55% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8
Cayuga GTL 55% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Chautauqua GTL 48% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) GTL 48% GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4
Chemung GTL 55% “…four equal installments of $11,250 at the beginning of each contract year…” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Chenango GTL Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Clinton GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 GTL 25% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A Service Schedule p. 4, para. 8 Yes GTL 25% Amendment Exhibit A Service Schedule p. 4, para. 8
Columbia GTL Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount Contract mentions phone services, but does not specify any commission amount Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount GTL Master Services Agreement p. 1 para. 1 Columbia Dahlbender Archive p. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract The service schedule that is referenced in the contract was not included in the county’s response to a FOIL request.
Cortland GTL 55% “… Premise Provider is compensated on a per call basis, depending on the program implemented, either at a flat amount per call, or on a percentage of the call charge.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 GTL 15% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8 Yes Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Delaware GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 GTL 0% Amendment Exhbibit A p. 1-2 para. 6 Not applicable (indicates there is no commission on service) GTL Amendment Exhbibit A p. 1-2 para. 6
Dutchess GTL 55% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Services Agreement p. 2 para. 4 GTL “Company will pay Premise Provider a commission every month based on average monthly revenue per tablet for that month from purchased content (“Content Revenue”)…Furthermore, Company will not owe or pay any commission on the first Eighty Nine Thousand Seven Hundred Dollars ($89,700), in Content Revenue collected.” Commissions range from 0% to 70%. Agreement Exhibit B p. 12-13 para. V.a. No Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Erie ICSolutions 63.50% $70,000 annual Technology Fund, funded on a monthly basis Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment No. 2 to the Agreement for Inmate Telephone System p. 2 para. 5 None Not available at facility FOIA Response p. 1 Not applicable (service not available at facility) ICSolutions 50% on all service fees Amendment No. 2 p. 2 para. 5
Essex GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Master Services Agreement p. 8 GTL 20% of per-minute rate GTL Master Services Agreement p. 11 Yes GTL 20% GTL Master Services Agreement p. 11
Franklin GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Exhibit A p. 3 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Exhibit A p. 3 para. 8
Fulton GTL 80% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Trinity Services Group Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount Trinity Tablet Agreement p. 1-2 Unknown (Contract does not specify any commission amount) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Genesee Securus 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment RFP Proposal p. 452 Securus 20% for entertainment RFP Proposal p. 452 No Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Greene GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Greene County Response p. 3/Agreement p. 3 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Hamilton Frontier Communications 0% Contract did not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment FOIL Response None Not available at facility FOIL Response Not applicable None Not available at facility FOIL Response In response to a FOIL request, Hamilton County stated that phone calls are free at the county jail and did not provide contracts.
Herkimer GTL 80% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Report and Resolution No. 126 p. 1 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Herkimer County responded that it “has no records which meet the specifications of your request” relating to tablet or video services.
Jefferson GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Lewis GTL 55% “Company shall also encumber Twenty-five percent (25%) of the Gross Reveneue billed or prepaid for inmate telephone calls covered by this Agreement, and issue a monthly check to the Premise Provider for this amount in the form of a technology grant” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 3 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Tablet Services Schedule p. 3 Yes GTL 20% Tablet Services Schedule p. 3
Livingston GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 20% Amendment p. 1 para. 2 No GTL 20% (included in tablets) Amendment p. 1 para. 2
Madison GTL 80% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Resolution 19-488 p. 1 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Services Schedule p. 3-4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Services Schedule p. 3-4 para. 8
Monroe Securus 78.50% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Resolution No. 31 of 2020 p. 1 Section 1 Securus 20% on premium tablet content/ 25% eMessaging Resolution No. 31 of 2020 p. 1 Section 1 No Securus 25% Resolution No. 31 of 2020 p. 1 Section 1
Montgomery GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Montgomery County responded on 9/30/2020 that they did not have a current contract. We obtained a contract that is expired, but automatically renews, from Worth Rises. As of 3/12/2021, rates for Montgomery County were listed on the GTL website.
Nassau GTL 54% $100,000 one-time sign-on payment Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment No. 1 p. 1, Use and Occupancy p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Nassau County responded that “no records exist” relating to tablet or video services.
Niagara GTL 80% $50,000 technology grant in both 2017 and 2018 $299,000 per year Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) GTL Contract does not seem to promise a commission Amendment p. 1, para. 3
Oneida GTL 45% $50,000 bonus in 2010 paid over 3 annual installments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Trinity 10% Amendment to the Commissary Services Agreement p. 2 para. 6 No Trinity 10% (included with tablets) Amendment to the Commissary Services Agreement p. 2 para. 6 In response to a request for the current contracts on 7/13/2020, the county provided a contract with Trinity for tablets and phones which expired on 4/20/2020. We assumed that this is the current provider. However, it is possible that the county has switched tablet and video service providers to Telmate, which is owned by GTL. Telmate’s website, as of 3/12/2021, lists that it provides tablets and video here.
Onondaga ICSolutions 65% $350,000.00 Technology Grant/Signing Bonus Contract does not guarantee minimum payment ICSolutions Contract p. 398 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) ICSolutions 65% ICSolutions Contract p. 398
Ontario Securus 65% Contract does not outline additional payments “Such compensation will be paid monthly with a minimum annual guarantee amount of $75,000. After the first 12 months and each year thereafter during the Term, the minimum annual guarantee will be 80% of the previous 12 month’s actual commissions earned” Agreement Schedule p. 7 Securus 20% of tablet rentals and eMessaging Agreement Schedule p. 10, 11 No Securus Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Agreement Schedule p. 12, Securus Video Visitation Schedule p. 1
Orange GTL 50% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para 5 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Orange County responded “N/A/ no such record” to the request for records relating to tablet and video services. GTL’s website lists that it provides video services as of 3/12/2021.
Orleans ICSolutions Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) Resolution No. 208-519 p. 1 None Not available at facility FOIL Response Not applicable (service not available at facility) ICSolutions Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Resolution No. 208-519 p. 1 Orleans County provided some documents, but did not provide agreements with service providers. The response stated that the records requested “are trade secrets or are submitted to agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which, if disclosed, would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise (POL 87(2)(d)).”
Oswego GTL 80% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 2 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment p. 4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment p. 4 para. 8
Otsego GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Putnam GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Amendment p. 1, Service Schedule p. 2 para. 6 Unknown Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Only the first page of the service schedule was provided.
Rensselaer GTL 55% Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) $200,000 annual guarantee Amendment p. 1 para. 1-2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) GTL Contract does not seem to promise a commission Amendment p. 1 para. 3
Rockland GTL Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Rockland County responded that Corrections does not keep responsive records. We checked service provider websites to see if Rockland County was listed; we found the county on both the GTL and Securus websites. Since GTL is also listed on the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office website, we assume this is the correct phone service provider.
Saratoga GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 Keefe 15% Addendum to Commissary Service Agreement para. 3 No Keefe 15% (included in tablets) Exhibit A Description of Services p. 1
Schenectady GTL 55% “… Premise Provider is compensated on a per call basis, depending on the program implemented, either at a flat amount per call, or on a percentage of the call charge.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Services Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Schenectady County did not provide a response to FOIL requests. However, we obtained a contract from MuckRock.com. In addition, GTL’s website lists Schenectady County as one of the places it serves.
Schoharie GTL 55% of billed or prepaid “Company shall also encumber Twenty-five percent (25%) of the Gross Reveneue billed or prepaid for inmate telephone calls covered by this Agreement, and issue a monthly check to the Premise Provider for this amount.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Service Schedule p. 2 para. 3 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8
Schuyler GTL 55% “… Premise Provider is compensated on a per call basis, depending on the program implemented, either at a flat amount per call, or on a percentage of the call charge.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Seneca GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
St. Lawrence GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 10% Addendum to St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office para. 4 No GTL Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Addendum to St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office para. 2
Steuben GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Agreement p. 2 para. 4 GTL 0% Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Not applicable (indicates there is no commission on service) GTL Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Amendment p. 2 para. 6.a.ii
Suffolk Securus 86% $1.60 per PayNow call + $0.30 per Text2Connect transaction fee Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Agreement Exhibit E p. 35 para. 6 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Sullivan GTL 56% $27,000 one-time signing bonus Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Sullivan County did not provide a response to FOIL requests. However, we obtained a recent contract from MuckRock.com. In addition, Securus’s website lists Sullivan County as one of the places it serves.
Tioga GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 3 None Not available at facility FOIL Response Not applicable (service not available at facility) None Not available at facility FOIL Response
Tompkins GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 3 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8
Ulster Securus Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Warren GTL Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) Contract Extension Between County of Warren and Global Tel*Link Corporation p. 1 None Not available at facility FOIL Response Not applicable (service not available at facility) None Not available at facility FOIL Response Some documentation was provided in response to a FOIL request, although the contract itself was not provided.
Washington GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8
Wayne GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Westchester GTL 62% “… B) put in escrow $200,000.00 to be used for enhanced technology at the County’s request; C) roll over an escrow balance of $61,652.63 remaining from the previous agreement into the new term; …” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Global Tel Link August 2018 – July 2021 p. 2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Primonics (Securus) County pays Primonics $4748.33 per month Primonics Contract No. 5717BPS p. 2
Wyoming GTL 80% “… Premise Provider is compensated on a per call basis, depending on the program implemented, either at a flat amount per call, or on a percentage of the call charge.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Resolution No. 20-129 p. 1 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Yates GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 20% Amendment p. 1 para. 2 No GTL 20% Amendment p. 1 para. 2

Appendix 2: Which counties have bundled contracts?

This appendix table shows that the majority of counties bundle together phone calls and other services into a single contract. Bundling services together usually adds additional costs for the consumers. We chose to distinguish between counties (such as Albany) that bundled together services from a single vendor within the initial contract, and other counties (such as Broome) that signed a phone contract and then later added non-phone services to that contract via amendment. Both of these scenarios are concerning for different reasons: When counties bundle from the outset, providers can obscure the true cost of the contract and the provider’s profits, as explained in Footnote 2. And when counties add new services onto an existing contract instead of putting out a competitive request for proposals, they fail to consider whether a competing company could provide either the existing or newly-added services at a lower cost.
County Are Services Bundled?
Albany Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Allegany Unknown (Did not provide contract)
Broome Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Cattaraugus Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Cayuga Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Chautauqua Yes: Phone and video services were bundled in initial contract
Chemung Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Chenango Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Clinton Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Columbia Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Cortland Yes: Tablet services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Delaware Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Dutchess Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Erie Yes: Video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Essex Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Franklin Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Fulton No: Has contracts with different providers for phone and tablet services
Genesee Yes: Phone and video services were bundled in initial documents
Greene Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Hamilton N/A (Facility does not offer tablet and video services)
Herkimer Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Jefferson Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Lewis Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Livingston Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Madison Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Monroe Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Montgomery Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Nassau Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Niagara Yes: Video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Oneida Unclear: County provided contracts for different providers for phone services and tablet/video services (GTL for phones and Trinity for tablets and video). However, Telmate, a GTL subsidiary, lists that it provides tablet and video services to Oneida County on its website.
Onondaga Yes: Phone and video services were bundled in initial contract
Ontario Yes: Phone, Tablet, Video were bundled in initial contract
Orange Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Orleans Unknown (Did not provide full phone and video contracts)
Oswego Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Otsego Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Putnam Yes: Tablet services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Rensselaer Yes: Video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Rockland Unknown (Did not provide phone, tablet, or video contracts)
Saratoga Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment (The phone and tablet provider is Keefe, which is owned by GTL)
Schenectady Unknown (Did not provide phone, tablet, or video contracts)
Schoharie Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Schuyler Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Seneca Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
St. Lawrence Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Steuben Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Suffolk Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Sullivan Unknown (Did not provide phone, tablet, or video contracts)
Tioga N/A (Facility does not offer tablet and video services)
Tompkins Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Ulster Unknown (Did not provide contract)
Warren N/A (Facility does not offer tablet and video services)
Washington Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Wayne Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Westchester No: Has contracts with different providers for phone and video services (county did not provide a tablet contract)
Wyoming Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Yates Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services are in a single contract (unknown if it was set up this way initially or if additional services were added to existing contract via amendment)

Appendix 3: Where are county kickbacks directed?

Different county contracts specify different payees for the commissions. In some cases, kickbacks are paid directly to the jail, in others to the county more broadly, and in still others to a specified fund. For each county, this table shows the payee listed in the county contract.
Of course, as we have argued for years, these kickbacks are inappropriate no matter who technically receives them. As Verizon, a vocal opponent of predatory phone calls, noted in a comment to the FCC: “DOCs may use commissions to fund beneficial inmate services that may not otherwise receive funding. But forcing inmates’s families to fund these programs through their calling rates is not the answer. Because higher rates necessarily reduce inmates’s telephone communications with their families and thus impede the well-recognized societal benefits resulting from such communications, other funding sources should be pursued.”
County Phones Tablets Video
Albany County County County
Allegany Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Broome Broome County Jail/Premises Provider Broome County Jail/Premises Provider Broome County Jail/Premises Provider
Cattaraugus Cattaraugus County, Attn: Sheriff’s Office Premises Provider Premises Provider
Cayuga Cayuga County Jail, Sheriff David S. Gould Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Chautauqua Chautauqua County Jail Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Chautauqua County Jail
Chemung Chemung County Jail, Attn: Sheriff Christopher J. Moss Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Chenango Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Clinton Clinton County Jail, Attn: David Farro, Sheriff Clinton County Jail/Premises Provider Clinton County Jail/Premises Provider
Columbia Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Cortland Cortland County Jail Cortland County Sheriff’s Department/Premise Provider Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Delaware Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Dutchess Dutchess County Sheriff’s Department, Attn: George Krom, Correction Administrator Dutchess County/Premise Provider Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Erie Erie County Sheriff’s Office, NY/Facility County said it does not provide this service Erie County Sheriff’s Office, NY/Facility
Essex Essex County Jail, Attn: Sheriff David Reynolds Essex County Jail/Premises Provider Essex County Jail/Premises Provider
Franklin Franklin County Jail/Premises Provider Franklin County Jail/Premises Provider Franklin County Jail/Premises Provider
Fulton Fulton County Jail, Attn: Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Genesee County Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Greene Greene County Jail, Att: Daniel Frank, County Administrator Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Hamilton County said there are no commissions on phone calls County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Herkimer Herkimer County Jail, Attn: Ms. Judy Higgins (Deposited by county to Account A 3150A.2450A, Commissions, Correctional Facility Fund) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Jefferson Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Lewis County of Lewis/County Lewis County Jail/Premises Provider Lewis County Jail/Premises Provider
Livingston Livingston County, Attn: Chief Deputy Jason Yasso Livingston County Jail/Premises Provider Livingston County Jail/Premises Provider
Madison Madison County Jail, Attn: Sheriff Madison County/ Premises Provider Madison County/Premises Provider
Monroe Jail Administration, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (by county resolution, payments go to trust fund 9620, T99 Jail Commissary-Phone) Jail Administration, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (by county resulotion, payments go to trust fund 9620, T99 Jail Commissary-Phone) Jail Administration, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (by county resulotion, payments go to trust fund 9620, T99 Jail Commissary-Phone)
Montgomery Montgomery County Treasurer Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Nassau Nassau County Correctional Center, Attn: Warren Vandewater, Budget Director Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Niagara Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Oneida Oneida County Sheriff’s Office/Premises Provider Oneida County Sheriff’s Office Oneida County Sheriff’s Office
Onondaga County of Onondaga/County Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) County of Onondaga/County
Ontario Ontario County/Customer Ontario County/Customer Ontario County/Customer
Orange Karen Daly, Fiscal Manager, Orange County Correctional Facility County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Orleans County County said it does not provide this service County
Oswego Oswego County Correctional Facility Oswego County Correctional Facility/Premises Provider Oswego County Correctional Facility/Premises Provider
Otsego Otsego County Sheriff’s Department Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Putnam Putnam County, NY, Attn: Robert L. Langley Jr., Sheriff Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Rensselaer Rensselaer County Bureau of Finance Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear)
Rockland Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Saratoga County of Saratoga/County Saratoga County Correctional Facility/Client Saratoga County Correctional Facility/Client
Schenectady Finance Department Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Schoharie Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office, ATTN: Sheriff Ron Stevens Schoharie County Jail/Premises Provider Schoharie County Jail/Premises Provider
Schuyler Schuyler County Jail, Attn: Sheriff William E. Yessman Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Seneca Seneca County Jail Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
St. Lawrence St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear)
Steuben Steuben County Jail, Attn: Sheriff Joel Ordway Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear)
Suffolk County of Suffolk/County Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Sullivan Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, Attn: Sheriff Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Tioga Tioga County Jail, Att: Gary W. Howard, Sheriff County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Tompkins Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department/Premises Provider Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department/Premises Provider Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department/Premises Provider
Ulster Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Warren Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Washington Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Washington County Jail/Premises Provider Washington County Jail/Premises Provider
Wayne Wayne County Sheriff’s Office/Premises Provider Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Westchester County of Westchester/County Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) County said it does not provide this service
Wyoming Wyoming County Jail Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Yates Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Yates County Jail/Premises Provider Yates County Jail/Premises Provider

Appendix 4: When does each county’s contract expire?

Advocates and local politicians can take note of when the current contract in your county is set to expire. Many will automatically renew unless a new contract is sought and negotiated. As you can see, some counties sent contracts that have already expired.
County Expiration date Renewal Terms Notes
Albany 2/11/22 2 one-year options for renewal
Allegany 2014 Automatically renews The full GTL contract was not provided, though the county’s FOIL response indicates that the initial contract expired in 2014 and has been renewed every year since.
Broome 2/14/22 2 one-year options for renewal
Cattaraugus 5/20/22 Automatically renews
Cayuga 10/28/19 Automatically renews In response to a request for the current contract on 5/12/2020, the county sent a contract that expired on 10/28/2019.
Chautauqua 5/31/23 Automatically renews This is a 10-year contract.
Chemung 4/10/22 Automatically renews
Chenango Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided)
Clinton 10/5/23 Automatically renews
Columbia 12/29/20 Automatically renews
Cortland 5/1/21 Automatically renews
Delaware 10/13/23 Does not specify renewal terms
Dutchess 9/29/20 Automatically renews The exact end date of this contract is unclear because the effective date (the date that the Agreement is signed by all parties) is unclear. There are no dates accompanying signatures directly; however, the signature page bears a date of 9/29/15 in the bottom left corner. We assumed that this is the effective date.
Erie 9/30/22 2 one-year automatic renewals
Essex 7/1/23 Does not specify renewal terms
Franklin Unknown Unknown Full contracts were not provided; as such, the end date of the contract is unclear. The most recent amendment was signed 9/11/2020.
Fulton GTL: 10/8/23
Trinity: Unknown
GTL: automatically renews
Trinity: Unknown”
Fulton County contracts with GTL for phone services and Trinity for tablets. The agreement with Trinity does not provide an end date. The most recent date of signature on that document is 1/9/2020.
Genesee Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided) Full contracts were not provided; as such, the end date of the contract is unclear. The resolution approving Securus’s proposal, which was provided to us, was signed 5/25/2018.
Greene 6/8/14 Automatically renews
Hamilton Not applicable Not applicable In response to a FOIL request, Herkimer County stated that phone calls are free at the county jail and did not provide contracts.
Herkimer 10/25/19 Automatically renews
Jefferson 10/10/17 Automatically renews
Lewis 4/15/23 Does not specify renewal terms
Livingston GTL: 8/27/2023
Primonics: 7/18/17
Automatically renews
Madison 11/17/21 Automatically renews
Monroe 4/30/25 5 one-year options for renewal
Montgomery 4/13/17 Automatically renews Montgomery County responded on 9/30/2020 that they did not have a current contract. We obtained a contract that is expired, but automatically renews, from Worth Rises. As of 3/12/2021, rates for Montgomery County were listed on the GTL website.
Nassau 2/7/15 Does not specify renewal terms In response to a request for the current contract on 7/1/2020, the county sent a contract that expired on 2/7/2015. Nassau County also responded that “no records exist” relating to tablet or video services.
Niagara 6/17/21 Automatically renews
Oneida GTL: 6/15/2012
Trinity: 4/30/2020
GTL: automatically renews
Trinity: Does not specify renewal terms
In response to a request for the current contract on 7/13/2020, the county sent a contract with Trinity for tablets that expired on 4/20/2020. Telmate’s website, as of 3/12/2021, lists that it provides tablets and video here.
Onondaga 12/31/2021 Does not specify renewal terms
Ontario 10/27/23 1 five-year option for renewal
Orange 2/2/16 3 one-year options for renewal In response to the request for current contracts on 7/10/2020, the county sent a contract that expired on 2/2/2019 at the latest. Orange County responded “N/A no such record” to the request for records relating to tablet and video services. GTL’s website lists that it provides video services as of 3/12/2021.
Orleans 5/31/22 Unclear from the documents provided Orleans County provided no agreements with service providers. The response stated that the records requested “are trade secrets or are submitted to agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which, if disclosed, would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise (POL 87(2)(d)).”
Oswego 1/30/22 Automatically renews
Otsego 12/20/16 Automatically renews
Putnam Either 4/26/24 or 10/22/22 Either automatically renews or 3 one-year automatic renewals The contract states that the term of the agreement runs until 4/26/2024, though an amendment states that the term of the agreement is extended to 10/22/2022 with 3 one-year renewals.
Rensselaer 12/20/19 Unclear from the documents provided In response to the request for the current contracts on 3/1/2021, the county sent a contract that expired on 12/20/2019.
Rockland Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided) Rockland County responded that Corrections does not keep responsive records. Current rates were listed on both the GTL and Securus websites. GTL is listed on the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office website.
Saratoga GTL: Unknown
Keefe: 9/4/24
GTL: Unknown
Keefe: automatically renews
The full GTL contract was not provided; as such, the end date of the contract is unclear. The most recent amendment was signed 3/23/2020.
Schenectady 8/14/20 Automatically renews Schenectady County did not provide response to our FOIL requests. However, we obtained a contract from MuckRock.com. GTL’s website lists Schenectady County as one of the places it serves.
Schoharie 2/11/25 Automatically renews
Schuyler 3/16/25 Automatically renews
Seneca 8/9/23 Automatically renews
St. Lawrence 2/20/24 Automatically renews
Steuben 2/20/21 Automatically renews
Suffolk 4/30/19 Does not specify renewal terms
Sullivan 5/27/16 Automatically renews Sullivan County did not provide response to our FOIL requests. However, we obtained a recent contract from MuckRock.com. Securus’s website lists Sullivan County as one of the places it serves.
Tioga 5/19/25 Automatically renews
Tompkins 6/15/23 Automatically renews
Ulster Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided)
Warren None Automatically renews Some documentation was provided in response to a FOIL request, though the contract itself was not provided.
Washington 4/11/24 Does not specify renewal terms
Wayne 9/11/11 1 two-year option for renewal
Westchester GTL: 7/31/21
Primonics: 5/14/24
GTL: 1 two-year option for renewal
Wyoming 6/11/24 Automatically renews
Yates 3/16/21 Does not specify renewal terms

 

Footnotes

  1. This amount was calculated using a conservative estimate of 400 minutes of phone calls per jailed person, per month. This 400-minute estimate was based on the (rounded-down) number of minutes of use at the Albany County Jail from 2019, as well as our previous research into jail phone use. We also assumed an average phone call length of 13 minutes, based on GTL call summaries from 2017. Finally, we determined the average daily population in each jail using reports from the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services.  ↩

  2. You might wonder how private phone companies manage to turn profits in jails, even while paying such a large percentage of phone revenue to the counties in the form of kickbacks. For one, companies charge many additional hidden consumer fees on phone calls that may be exempt from kickbacks. In some instances around the country, this fee harvesting can add up to more than the base, per-minute cost of the call. Secondly, phone companies also make money off other products and services that they bundle together with phone services into a single contract. For example, commission data from Albany County shows that while Securus kicks back a whopping 86% of phone call revenue back to the county, it gives the county just 20% of revenue from video visitation and eMessaging, and 10% of revenue from music, movies, and games. In November and December 2020, according to the commissions report for Albany County, non-phone services amounted to more than three-quarters of Securus’ post-commissions revenue in Albany. These non-phone services often escape regulation and oversight by the FCC and individual states. The bundling of regulated and unregulated services into a single contract thwarts regulators’ ability to set reasonable rates for services, and allows service providers to obscure the amount of unreasonable profits that they collect under a contract, as Stephen Raher notes in his law review article, The Company Store and the Literally Captive Market. (For more on profiteering in the world of prison tablets, see our work on hidden costs in tablet contracts).  ↩

  3. A disproportionate number of New York counties use GTL. The likely reason is that the New York State Sheriff’s Association steers counties to GTL in exchange for 3% of every GTL phone call made from a jail in New York State. This kickback — which is not in the county’s contracts — is documented in a 2019 expose in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. This long-standing arrangement dates back more than 20 years, as described in this 2006 settlement with the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, where the Sheriff’s Association was criticized for not disclosing its financial interest in the awarding of contracts to its then-preferred vendor, AT&T. (AT&T’s jail phone business was acquired by Global Tel*Link in 2005.)

    Other researchers should note that the New York State Sheriff’s Association apparently has GTL funnel the money through a for-profit corporation it controls, “Star Governmental” (see paragraph 26 in the 2006 settlement linked above) which then pays the Sheriff’s Association. These funds are substantial. According to the non-profit tax returns of the New York State Sheriff’s Association, the Association receives approximately $460,000 per year in royalties from Star Governmental ($434,884 in 2016, $458,681 in 2017, $487,112 in 2018).  ↩

  4. New York City is not the only jurisdiction that has made phone calls free. New York’s Monroe County, home to Rochester — which already reduced phone calls to the relatively affordable cost of 10 cents a minute in 2019 — voted in March 2021 to use its phone commission fund to provide 75 minutes of free calls to each person in the jail each week; 30 of the minutes can be used on video calls. These free calls will save families an estimated $30 a month. And this trend is not confined to New York: San Francisco County made jail calls free in 2020, and in March 2021, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to do the same.  ↩

Katie Rose Quandt is a Senior Editor at the Prison Policy Initiative. (Other articles | Full bio | Contact) Andrea Fenster is a Staff Attorney at the Prison Policy Initiative. (Other articles | Full bio | Contact)



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