Letters to the EditorNews

Let Jail Inmates Make Free Phone Calls

The coronavirus crisis has changed life dramatically in Athens-Clarke County, and there is no evidence that things will get back to normal anytime soon.

There are over 300 men and women incarcerated on a daily basis in the Clarke County jail. Today they ranged in age from 17–84.  

The sheriff has ordered that visitation at the jail be halted during the crisis. This means that prisoners can now only communicate with family and friends by telephone. All prisoner telephone calls from the jail have to be made collect.

Collect telephone calls coming from the jail are expensive to the families and friends on the receiving end. The sheriff’s office contracts with Securus Technologies to install and operate the collect phone call system at the jail. The company profits from collect calls, largely through the “consumer fees” it charges prisoners’ families to deposit money, open accounts or get refunds. The county receives a hefty commission from Securus to supplement the jail’s operating budget. Virtually all of this money comes from the families and friends of those incarcerated.

With visitation cancelled, it is apparent that prisoners at the jail will increasingly turn to the telephone to maintain contact with their loved ones. This will pose an added financial burden to the families receiving the calls, a burden most cannot afford.  

I would hope Sheriff Ira Edwards, Mayor Kelly Girtz and commissioners would move to allow prisoners at the jail to make direct—not collect—phone calls to loved ones, at least until visitation is restored at the facility.