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October 29, 2005

A Dubious Enterprise

A friend of mine disappeared nearly two months ago and was finally resurrected in the form of a collect call informing me that he was{still is} in jail in a place called Dawson County, Georgia.

Apparently the reasons for his incarceration are somewhat complicated and so, not being exactly sure what they are, I pass no judgement -- I'll give him the benefit of the doubt until a jury says otherwise. I've known him for a long time and can not imagine what he could possibly have done.

But he's been in there since the start of September, evidently Dawson County's not known for being in any hurry where paperwork is concerned, and we'll hopefully have him out of there wihin the next couple of weeks, one way or the other.

But the subject of this post is not my friend's problem with the Law, it's the means by which we can communicate: A company called Evercom, or Correctional Billing Services as they refer to themselves when you get recordings of theirs on the telephone.

For prisoners with phone privileges, Evercom is ready with a dial tone. The company provides collect and prepaid phone service to inmates in over 2000 city, county, state, and private correctional facilities across the US. As an exclusive phone provider, Evercom installs and maintains its equipment at no cost to the facility. It also handles billing and collection services for other providers of inmate phone services and offers software for jail and facilities management, records management, and computer-aided dispatch services. The company was formed in 1996 with the acquisitions of AmeriTel Payphones and Talton Telecommunications.

In order to receive my friend's collect calls, I had to open an account with these people, providing my personal info and the telephone number(my landline)he could call me at.

They charge 89 cents a minute and place a maximum number of minutes on each call.

Whenever the collective minutes reach a certain amount, they block any further calls until you've made a $50.00 payment to your local phone company and call them with a confirmation number.

That is ridiculous! Their billing appears on the phone bill as part of the total, and you pay it.

When I first encountered this, I made a $100.00 deposit. When they hit me with the block I called and talked to a woman who had to be an eagle among turkeys as she actually seemed to know, unlike her associates, what is involved in having a home telepone.

"Look," I said, "I deposited a hundred last time instead of fifty, that's in your computer. So what's the big deal? I hate paying bills, and have an arrangement with SBC where they simply debit my checking account every month. There's more than enough money in that particular account to pay my phone bill for the next twenty years."

"So you have credit with your phone company?"

"Yes," I answered, "plenty. I even have my DSL through them."

So she went ahead and reset the account, and now here we are again at a block due to "high call volume."

This is idiocy.

A company like this seems totally unnecessary -- incarceration facilities don't need to outsource outgoing collect calls by inmates -- they can easily have their own call monitoring systems attached to banks of telephones.

When I see something like this, a totally unneeded government outsource, the first thing I ask myself is "why?"

In this case, the second thing I ask is, "Who in the prison system would have gotten the ball rolling on the use of such a company as this, and what did/do they stand to gain?"

Given past samples of corruption in the prison system(including county jails, etc), is this one of those deals where some officials somewhere in the system are getting kickbacks from this telephone operation?

It is apparent, when you accept the collect call(press 0) and a recorded voice tells you your call may be monitored, that this outsourced company also monitors the call.

That, to me, is a system-approved security breach of the first magnitude. These people are not Law Enforcement or Corrections personnel, they are outsiders, civilians who might have their own agendas, and the contents of these calls should not be accessible to them.

Undoubtedly, a goodly amount of these conversations from jails and prisons contain hooded or, in the case of some more moronic mutts, not so hooded references to criminal affairs that constitute useful intelligence for Law Enforcement that can be followed up on. On the same token, some of this information might provide outsourced listeners with opportunities to "cash in" on it.

Prison system officials are conversant with security issues involved in their field, so why would they outsource thus? They could say that it is "cost efficient" having the telephone system installed and maintained by an outside firm, but the intended results still would not outweigh the potential for harm.

So, once again I wonder, who are the graft practitioners in the prison system who are making money off Prison Billing Services, ne Evercom?

Posted by Seth at October 29, 2005 11:40 AM


Corruption abounds, and all its practitioners are not behind bars.

Posted by: GM at October 29, 2005 12:36 PM

Yeah, some of them preside over those who are(behind bars).

Posted by: Seth at October 29, 2005 02:16 PM

How to you get any service out of these jerks?I heard some jail system had them kick out of their county Any truth to that? and how did they do it?

Posted by: Gina Newton at May 8, 2006 07:13 PM

Many thanks for your visit and your comment, Gina.

I wasn't aware of this, though I wouldn't be terribly surprised. If I was running any political subdivision, I'd certainly run 'em off.

They are a parasite that victimizes the friends and families of the incarcerated by charging an arm and a leg when you have no alternative but to go through them, and they are completely unnecessary, in fact as I indicated, I believe them to be a security breach(and I earn a pretty comfortable living as a security professional, so this is in my purview), not to mention still another venue that forces you to give up your personal information in order to do business with them, yet one more data bank an info thief might peruse to obtain identity theft ammo.

As things turned out, I ended up bailing my friend out, and now he's enjoying the freedom of the innocent. :-)

Posted by: Seth at May 8, 2006 07:41 PM