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Travis County to Lower Cost of Inmate Phone Calls

Jason Farrar via flickr

Right now, if your loved one calls you from Travis County Jail, it will cost you $4.65. The calls are limited to 20 minutes, but the fee is flat whether the call lasts the entire 20 minutes, or 20 seconds.

But Travis County officials have voted to lower that flat fee by more than 60 percent. And that means the County will lose the money it usually makes from those calls.

“Then, poof! $800,000 dollars goes away,” says Commissioner Gerald Daugherty. That’s about right – the County would lose roughly $840,000 dollars in commission from jail phone calls. But Commissioners voted in favor of reduced call costs anyway, for two reasons. The first reason, says Commissioner Margaret Gomez, is that inmates’ families have complained about the high cost.

“It’s the complaints by the families who say they just can’t afford the calls,” Gomez says. According to the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates inmate phone calls, the average cost of a call from "the vast majority" of U.S. jail and prisons is $2.96 (for 15-minute calls). 

And, the FCC decided in October that $2.96 was too high. The commission decided to cap prison and jail call rates to reduce the average cost to $1.65. Though it will be mid-2016 before these caps are enforced in jails, Travis County officials decided to get out ahead of it. That means the county will alter its agreement with Dallas-based Securus Technologies, who administers the phone calls made from area jails. The contract, with a new rate of $1.65, will head back to Securus for approval.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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