Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today announced that Cook County Commissioners amended a contract with Securus Technologies, which will significantly lower the cost of telephone calls detainees in Cook County jails and detention centers place to their friends and families.
The County has eliminated the highest-priced call option, $9.99 collect calls to cell phones.
Paid calls will be extended from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Surcharges have been eliminated and connection fees have been reduced.
Instead of a five minute call at booking, detainees will be given 15 minutes worth of free calls.
“My team successfully negotiated a new agreement that will allow detainees to make calls at a much lower cost. Prices have been cut in half and calls will be twice as long,” Preckwinkle said. “Cook County will no longer overcharge families to connect with their loved ones who are in our custody.”
Securus has been cooperative in finding a solution and has agreed to be transparent about its rates with the County and inmates, Cook County Chief Information Officer Lydia Murray said.
“Securus has made a pledge to no hidden fees,” Murray said. “The County, however, still intends to audit the contract to ensure that all of the calls are accounted for and appropriately charged.”
The contract continues to provide public safety benefits, which include the recording of calls and the ability of the Sheriff’s office to monitor the calls. As part of the County’s negotiations, the Sheriff’s office will be given upgraded software to help with investigations.
“My office will continue to work with the President’s office to implement the approved changes without compromise to the security and daily operations of the Department of Corrections,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. “Costs for communication to inmates should not be excessive or burden families wishing to speak with them.”
The new rates for most call types will go into effect immediately after the signing of the amended contract. The $9.99 calls will be phased out within 45 days at the direction of the Sheriff’s Office.
Cook County will continue to provide free calls to inmates when they are booked and discharged. Calls to an inmate’s Public Defender also will remain free, along with calls from the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.
The Securus contract, which will be extended until December 2014, guarantees revenues of $3.3 million in 2013.
Cook County will issue a request for proposals for companies to bid on a new contract to provide phone calls at the jail next year. President Preckwinkle has committed to the next contract being revenue neutral, ensuring that the rates charged to inmates only cover the cover the cost of installing and operating the phone system.