Delaware prisons chief pleased with drop in inmates’ phone rates

DOVER — Calling it a boost to inmates and their families, Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Robert Coupe touted a recent new contract with a third party vendor that will drop inmate phone service by roughly 30 percent.

A contract with Global Tel*Link went into effect on Tuesday and runs though June 30, 2018, the state said.

“We are pleased that the new contract reduces the phone rates that our offenders and their families will pay,” Commissioner Coupe said.

Robert Coupe

Robert Coupe

“The Department of Correction recognizes that an inmate’s support from family and friends through phone calls and visits helps them cultivate and maintain positive connections to the community.

“The positive connections that are maintained during their incarceration, in turn, can help facilitate an offender’s reentry to society after their release and can play a beneficial role in securing housing, employment, and other services that can lead to positive change in their lives.”

The contract was facilitated by the Delaware Department of Technology and Information.

According to state officials, determining inmate phone system rates require a balance of safety and security for the public and prison facility while aiming to make sure phone rates charged to inmate are justified.

The state said that unlike residential phone systems, phones used by inmates require additional security infrastructure that records inmate calls and allows the Department of Correction to monitor inmate calls, requiring an extra cost to it.

The DOC said that the phone system safeguards are in place to monitor inmate communications, and make sure there are no calls made to victims threatening or otherwise, and attempting to participate in criminal enterprises from inside the walls, among other examples.

The DOC is in the early planning phases of possibly creating a video visitation system to aid communication and contact between inmates and their families. The system would be especially beneficial to out of area families, officials said.

“We anticipate there will be a fee (for video visitation) but are working to keep it as low as possible,” DOC spokesman Jason Miller said.

Also, Commissioner Coupe said the DOC continues to examine rates inmates pay for products and services, particularly the commissary, in an effort to keep costs fair.

The Dover-based Citizens for Criminal Justice is planning a statewide boycott of prison phone service from Sept. 13. CCJ President Ken Abraham said this week’s rate announcement was a positive step forward, but maintained that high rate issues remain a nationwide concern, along with what he described as other overpriced costs to inmates for various items.

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