Originally created 09/05/01

Hang up the phone



We don't see what the big stink is about. But a Greenville, S.C., attorney has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners because their collect calls are too expensive. Only in America.

According to state data, South Carolina made $5 million last year on prisoners' phone calls. Georgia made at least $10 million and it appears that all states but Nebraska have some sort of surcharge set for prisoners' calls.

But is that such a bad thing? After all, it costs more than $25,000 to house, feed, guard and care for each prisoner. That the state recovers some of the cost of doing business seems reasonable.

But, critics argue, the burden falls to the families who are paying up to $500 a month in collect call fees. There is a way to avoid these charges: Accept the calls less frequently and make them less lengthy.

We understand that prisoners do better when they have contact with families, but many of them make a lot of calls just to pass the time. Prison life is boring, after all. But They ought to be studying for their GED instead of talking on the phone.

Additionally, prisoners often use phones to run crime organizations or keep in touch with gang members. There has to be some sort of method to discourage overuse of prison phones.

And as far as phone companies are concerned, these types of collect calls are harder to collect on, and companies like Sprint or MCI run the risk of not being paid at all by families that just walk away from their bills.

Make no mistake about it - the campaign to get cheap calls for prisoners is part of a national effort by prisoners' legal advocates. The issue isn't going to go away. It will surely end up in court - at taxpayers' expense.



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