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Apr 2 - Jails banned visits in “quid pro quo” with prison phone companies, lawsuits say



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 3 weeks ago '16        #1
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icon Apr 2 - Jails banned visits in “quid pro quo” with prison phone companies, lawsuits say
 

 
Two lawsuits filed by a civil rights group allege that county jails in Michigan banned in-person visits in order to maximize revenue from voice and video calls as part of a "quid pro quo kickback scheme" with prison phone companies.

Civil Rights Corps filed the lawsuits on March 15 against the county governments, two county sheriffs, and two prison phone companies. The suits filed in county courts seek class-action status on behalf of people unable to visit family members detained in the local jails, including children who have been unable to visit their parents.

Defendants in one lawsuit include St. Clair County Sheriff Mat King, prison phone company Securus Technologies, and Securus owner Platinum Equity. In the other lawsuit, defendants include Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson and prison phone company ViaPath Technologies. ViaPath was formerly called Global Tel*Link Corporation (GTL), and the lawsuit primarily refers to the company as GTL.

Each year, thousands of people spend months in the county jails, the lawsuit said. Many of the detainees have not been convicted of any crime and are awaiting trial; if they are convicted and receive long sentences, they are tr@nsferred to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The named plaintiffs in both cases include family members, including children identified by their initials.

The Michigan counties are far from alone in implementing visitation bans, Civil Rights Corps said in a lawsuit announcement. "Across the United States, hundreds of jails have eliminated in-person family visits over the last decade," the group said, adding:

Why has this happened? The answer highlights a profound flaw in how decisions too often get made in our legal system: for-profit jail telecom companies realized that they could earn more profit from phone and video calls if jails eliminated free in-person visits for families. So the companies offered sheriffs and county jails across the country a deal: if you eliminate family visits, we'll give you a cut of the increased profits from the larger number of calls. This led to a wave across the country, as local jails sought to supplement their budgets with hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from some of the poorest families in our society.
St. Clair County implemented its family visitation ban in September 2017, "prohibiting people from visiting their family members detained inside the county jail," Civil Rights Corps alleged. This "decision was part of a quid pro quo kickback scheme with Securus Technologies, a for-profit company that contracts with jails to charge the families of incarcerated persons exorbitant rates to communicate with one another through 'services' such as low-quality phone and video calls," the lawsuit said.

Under the contract, "Securus pays the County 50 percent of the $12.99 price tag for every 20-minute video call and 78 percent of the $0.21 per minute cost of every phone call," the lawsuit said. The contract has "a guarantee that Securus would pay the County at least $190,000 each year," the St. Clair County lawsuit said.

The contract incentivizes the jail to increase video calls, in part by reducing payments from Securus "if the County fails to reach a minimum number of monthly paid video calls," the lawsuit said. The contract also lets Securus bill the county directly if call volume isn't high enough or renegotiate or terminate the deal if there is a "material reduction in inmate population or capacity," the lawsuit said.

"Both the County Defendants and Securus understood and intended that, to fulfill their end of the bargain, County Defendants would ban all in-person visits. Securus even installed the new video kiosks in the same areas of the jail formerly used for in-person visitation," the lawsuit said.

Securus Technologies provided Ars with a statement today. "The case against us in Michigan is misguided and without merit. We look forward to defending ourselves, and we will not let this suit detract from our successful efforts to create meaningful and positive outcomes for the consumers we serve," the company said.

Both lawsuits ask for injunctions that would force the jails to drop the visitation bans, and financial penalties including "monetary relief in the form of disgorged profits made from depriving parents and children of in-person visits."

We contacted the St. Clair and Genesee sheriffs' offices today and will update this article if we get any response.

The Genesee County lawsuit says the county originally banned in-person visits as "part of a quid pro quo kickback scheme" with Securus in 2014 but switched to GTL in 2018 in order to get more money. The GTL contract pays Genesee County "$180,000 per year from the company's phone call revenue, an annual cash payment called a 'technology grant' of $60,000, and 20 percent of the cost of every video call," the lawsuit said.

The video calls cost $10 for 25 minutes, the lawsuit said. "The jail's captain explained the reason for switching to GTL in the simplest terms: money. 'GTL offers a set guaranteed commission that is more than the average monthly commission we currently get [from Securus],'" the lawsuit said.

The GTL contract lets the company "terminate its video call service if the Sheriff does not produce sufficient cash revenue from the video calls for the Defendants to split between themselves," the lawsuit said. Civil Rights Corps told the court that GTL "can cut off the gravy train at any time if the County Defendants don't produce enough revenue."

The group alleges violations of state law. "Defendants cannot, consistent with the Michigan Constitution, conspire to prohibit in-person family contact as part of a scheme to make money. This scheme violates Michigan law, offends basic principles of human connection and dignity, and imposes profound costs on families," the lawsuit said.

We contacted GTL/ViaPath and will update this article if we get a response. The company told The New York Times that it "denies the allegations in the complaint and looks forward to the opportunity to defend the claims made against it."


 https://arstechnica.com/t .. awsuits-claim/
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8 comments

 3 weeks ago '12        #2
FrescoB  topics gone triple plat - Number 1 spot x8
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fu#k Tom Gores
+3   

 3 weeks ago '13        #3
boobalo1  topics gone triple plat - Number 1 spot x1
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This happened everywhere.. Harris County still won’t let kids in..
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 3 weeks ago '23        #4
LowCountrySC 
Props total: 5598 5 K  Slaps total: 1880 1 K
eliminate for profit prisons - now - yesterday for fu#ks sake.
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 3 weeks ago '04        #5
Chokeabiish 
Props total: 16962 16 K  Slaps total: 1590 1 K
"Securus pays the County 50 percent of the $12.99 price tag for every 20-minute video call and 78 percent of the $0.21 per minute cost of every phone call," the lawsuit said. The contract has "a guarantee that Securus would pay the County at least $190,000 each year,"

"Each year, thousands of people spend months in the county jails, the lawsuit said. Many of the detainees have not been convicted of any crime and are awaiting trial"

And they can't physically see their families? Got damn. This is so fu#ked up.
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 3 weeks ago '23        #6
Yopa 
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Can't believe the government would screw people over like that for money !
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+3   

 3 weeks ago '22        #7
Voodoogeddon  topics gone triple plat - Number 1 spot x14
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Close all private prisons
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 3 weeks ago '20        #8
Bighempin  topics gone triple plat - Number 1 spot x8
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Chit that's every jail in the USA chits for profit.
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 3 weeks ago '22        #9
Mainman301  topics gone triple plat - Number 1 spot x3
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America is corrupt af.
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