(AUSTIN, Texas) — Grassroots Leadership applauds Travis County Commissioners Court for voting to reduce phone call rates for those incarcerated at the county jail. Utilizing its annual contract renewal with Securus Technologies, the Dallas-based company that provides phone and video visitation technology at Travis County Jail, Commissioners chose to cap rates at $1.65 per 20-minute call, a significant decrease from the current rate of $4.65. The new rate will become effective in January 2016.
The rate policy will proactively bring Travis County close to compliance with the anticipated Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) new national standards for capping the price of calls from prisons and jails. The FCC’s new rules are a result of a decade-long organizing efforts by the national Prison Phone Justice Campaign and are expected to be implemented and enforced pending their inclusion in the Federal Register.
This rate cap eliminates all commissions to the County, currently in the neighborhood of $864,000, which was the sole point of contention among Commissioners during deliberations. In response, Lauren Johnson, Criminal Justice Fellow at Grassroots Leadership asserted, “We should never have become reliant on those commissions in the first place. If we’re really serious about adequate funding for our criminal justice system, we should be investing in the policy choices that meaningfully reduce the number of people in jail in the first place, which save us all in the long run.”
Securus Technologies has been the target of an ongoing local and statewide campaign to ensure that video technology is not utilized to replace in-person visits. Similar to phone rates, rates for video visitation have been what County Judge Sarah Eckhardt today described as a “de-facto tax on those least able to pay.” Today’s vote is a notable and noble decision by the Court, which has done right by the people of Travis County.
Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.