Prison Phone Companies Involved in Scheme to Ban In-Person Jail Visits, Lawsuit Says

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Two lawsuits filed by civil rights organizations allege collusion between Michigan state and prison phone companies. The scheme involved a “quid pro quo kickback scheme” that canceled prison visits to increase profits for the companies, the indictments allege. As part of the scheme, a portion of the profits were shared with governments.

Civil Rights Corps, a nonprofit that it is self-explanatory as “dedicated to opposing systemic injustice in the laws of the United States,” recently filed two lawsuits, which oppose the same policy in all areas of St. Clair and Genesee in Michigan. These arrangements involved business relationships with the sheriffs of St. Louis County. Clair and Genesee who predicted that prison visits would end. Under the new system, prison visitors had to pay for calls made by inmates, and the money from those calls was split between providers and counties, the lawsuit says.

For example, in the case of The case of St. Clair– who write as critics of St. Clair Sheriff Matt King, St. Clair County, the jail phone company Securus, and others involved in the transaction—the plaintiffs say:

On September 22, 2017, St. Clair proposed a new law: the Family Visitation Ordinance to prevent people from visiting relatives incarcerated in local jails…The County’s decision was part of a quid pro quo kickback scheme with Securus Technologies, a for-profit company that does business with the jail. to charge families of incarcerated people to communicate through “services” such as high-end phones and video calls. County officials agreed to ban prison visits to the jail to reduce Securus’ income.

In the case of Genesee County, meanwhile, a case they argue the same. It says Genesee also partnered with Securus to end family visits in county jails:

On September 22, 2014, Genesee County officials enacted a new law: the Family Visitation Ordinance that prohibits people from visiting family members who are incarcerated in … Technology…

However, Genesee later switched providers from Securus to another telecommunications company, then called Global Tel*Link Corporation (GTL), but later changed its name to ViaPath. The agreement also focused on removing fees from the paid calls that visitors had to make to communicate with people in prison, with profit sharing between the government and the company:

Under the leadership of Undersheriff (now Sheriff) Christopher Swanson, in 2018, the head of the jail told the account manager of Global Tel*Link Corporation (GTL) – another major jail communication company in the country – that County Prosecutors wanted to make. more money from calls and videos than you can promote money with Securus: “We want the best you can do,” he wrote. And he got it.

The County Defendants changed jail providers, negotiated and then signed an agreement with GTL in 2018. Under that agreement, which is still in effect, GTL pays the County Defendants $180,000 a year from the company’s phone fees, an annual so-called “technical support” fee of $60,000, and 20% of the cost of each video call (videos are priced at: $10.00 for 25 minutes). GTL said the county will receive an additional $16,000 annually from its cut in video calling fees alone.

Cody Cutting, attorney for the Civil Rights Corps, he told the Detroit Free Press: “These cases require the courts to act quickly because children are suffering. Each day these children and parents remain separated increases their pain. But these cases also raise a broader question: Do we as a society condone a criminal system so unethical that it perpetuates punishment and violence against children, families, and communities?

ViaPath, formerly known as GTL, told a New York Times that the company “denies the contents of the complaint and awaits an opportunity to defend the said claims.”

Easy Technologies, meanwhile, he told Ars Technica that the case was “misled and without reason. We look forward to defending ourselves, and we will not allow this suit to interfere with our efforts to create the best possible outcomes for the consumers we serve. “

Gizmodo reached out to ViaPath and Securus, as well as the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office. Clair and Genesee. We will update this article when they respond.

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