Ohio slashes inmate phone expenses to 5 cents a minute

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio prisons agency said Tuesday it was slashing the cost of inmate phone services and planned to install hundreds more phones.

The current contract with Virginia-based Global Tel-Link was renegotiated to bring the cost of calls down to 5 cents per minute plus applicable taxes, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said in a news release.

The agency also said Global Tel-Link will replace the agency's 2,000 phones and add 500 more as part of the new contract.

The negotiations follow the Federal Communication Commission's 2013 decision capping costs of long-distance calls after years of complaints from families of inmates and prison rights groups.

Under the old system, a 15-minute call could cost an Ohio inmate $17.14.

Keeping inmates connected with their families reduces the chance they'll return to prison, the state says.

"Maintaining these connections positively influences behavior in prison and the likelihood an offender will succeed upon release from prison," the corrections department said in a statement.

Negotiating the fees downward will cost about $15 million in annual funding the state formerly received as commission from Global Tel-Link, one of the two largest providers of inmate phone services.

The department used the $15 million on education, substance abuse recovery, job training and other programs. The state says the agency will continue to pay for those programs with other funds.