Reduced phone costs and a tablet program are coming to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the CDCR has announced.
A new six-year contract with Global Tel*Link (GTL) will reduce telephone costs starting March 19. All nationwide calls will be lowered to 2.5 cents per minute. Previously calls in California were 7.6 cents per minute and 21 cents per minute for calls throughout the rest of the U.S.
“Now more than ever, communication with family and friends is very important, and we want to make sure everyone has access to communicate with their loved ones without worrying about the cost,” said CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison in a prison memorandum.
m. GTL will also eliminate the $3 account set-up cost. A 99-cent transaction fee will be added to the call. Nationwide calls will be 37.5 cents for a 15-minute call, according to the memo.
“Each incarcerated person will receive 15 minutes of free phone calls and 15 minutes of free video calls every two weeks,” said the memo. “To support the implementation of the free calls, incarcerated individuals will be given a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to make calls.”
Valley State Prison began setting up PINs on Feb. 25. All other institutions will activate PINs by March 18. Until PINs are implemented, GTL and CDCR will continue to offer two free phone call days per month, according to the memo.
“The new tablets will launch mid-May at Valley State Prison, and roll out to all CDCR institutions in the following months,” said the memo. “It is expected that every adult institution will have tablets by the end of 2021, and all fire camps will have tablets by the end of March 2022.”
The tablets will allow approved individuals to send and receive emails, photos and short videos from loved ones. Also there will be a variety of informational and rehabilitative content.
“All activities will be closely monitored,” said the memo.
The tablets will be provided for free, but some features such as music subscriptions may charge a fee. Indigent incarcerated individuals, those with less than $25 in their trust account for 30 consecutive days, will receive five free message credits per week.
“Scheduling and eligibility criteria for use of tablets are in development and will be updated as more information is available,” said the memo. “However, the free Webex video visiting system remains in place.”
Tablets will be available for those who would want to make video calls in a different location, or to offset visiting-room limited video visiting stations’ availability. Video calls will cost 20 cents per minute.
The new contract will allow for more communication and technology services for prisons statewide.
“We know staying in touch with loved ones on the outside is important,” said Secretary Allison. “Not only to remain connected as a family, but also to help you stay motivated and get ready to return home.”