Tom Gores owns the Pistons. But Gores also recently acquired Securus, one the largest prison phone services in the nation. With that acquisition, the company must be sure to not gouge families of those imprisoned. The price of calls between inmates and loved ones used to be so high that family members were able to get the Federal Communications Commission to step in and regulate the rates charged.
The company should take this responsibility seriously.
Companies like Securus have the power to reinstate reasonable rates and, for example, drop the call rates from $6 per call to their original amount of $1.65. Even with rates like that, the prison phone service is a serious money maker because families have no choice but to use the service. Securus currently charges up to $22 for a 15-minute call.
What’s more, most of the family members of those incarcerated live hundreds of miles from the prisons. Frequently the phone is the only contact that children and parents have while serving their sentence. As someone who has worked in prisons educating inmates about AIDS and HIV transmission, I can say first-hand that keeping contact with loved ones on the outside makes a huge difference with inmate behavior inside and outside of prison. It also supports the family’s adjustment once the inmate becomes a returning citizen.
Making sure families can afford to be in contact with their incarcerated members can carry a racial component because of the very well documented racial disparities in arrests, conviction rates and sentencing. That makes Detroit, a majority African American city, subject to those racial disparities and also to potential exploitative pricing of such companies.
Parents, children and spouses deserve a fair price to stay in contact with their family members.
Detroit’s Community Health Awareness Group