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Monday, October 26, 2015

Disturbing - As Reported in the Decatur Daily's Sunday Edition "Did telephone service shortchange Morgan? Who owes Who?

I read the article in the Sunday Edition of the Decatur Daily in regards to the ongoing complaint of the jail telephone system for MCSO.  I have some comments and questions that I believe are relevant  in the Contract effort between the sheriff's office and Telmate.

But first.  Sheriff Franklin, when you say you are declining to comment on any possible fraud found by Secured Perimeters, you may want to keep your mouth shut.  Lois Lerner an IRS official declined to comment then kept right on talking after pleading the 5th Amendment on the incident of mishandling the Tea Parties information.

Now second but by no means second.  The people who have been hurt the most in the conundrum and allegations of telephone service over charges would be the inmates and their families who suffer the financial burden of trying to communicate with their loved ones.  If Telmate or any other service provider is overcharging they should be punished.  On the other hand, please answer these questions for the citizens.

Question 1.  Was the Telmate Contract let under competitive bid w/the MSCO or the County Commission?  I believe it was let with the MCSO in 2008.  I believe the contract requires that the county receive 48 percent of the gross revenues for all completed collect calls and 58 percent of gross revenues for all completed calls from debit or prepaid card.  I did not see any checks written to the Morgan County Commission for the Telmate services in the MCSO general funds ledger, Jail Inmate Ledger, or the Jail Store Account for.

Question 2.  In the Decatur Daily article dated June 14, 2015 the article reads "Inmate phone call charges generated $118,492.27 for the county's general fund for 2013-2014 and $58,996.13 In the first sixth months of this fiscal year.  The money does not stay in the Sheriff's Department".  Where did these funds go?

Question 3.  Did the sheriff's office receive the monies generated by the Telmate contract and pass them along to the county commission?  If so, which of the MCSO accounts were the Telmate funds deposited in, and how were the funds transferred to the county commission's general account?  I did not see any deposits made into the jail store account, sheriff's general ledger, or the Inmate housing account, I did find checks written to Talemate for inmate telephone cards for $4,149.60.  The ledger covers 1/19/2011 - 12/31/2013.

This question is important because the buck stops at the sheriff's office if the contract w/Telmate is between Telmate and the MCSO.  It seems to me that the sheriff's office is responsible for ensuring that the county commission gets their portion of the fees if the contract agreement is between the MCSO and Telmate.

Telmate had had nothing to gain by the contract arrangement. There only organization that stood to gain was the Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Franklin goes on to say in one of the article that she was not sheriff when the contract agreement was signed.  Well!  Sheriff, ignorance is no excuse of the law.  Since January 18, 2011 you have been sheriff and you were responsible for ensuring that the commission received their portion of the proceeded of the phone cards.

Question 4.  Who owes who?

As to whether Telmate is using loopholes in the contract and owes the county additional monies for other than completed phone calls, i.e., re-connecting a call, adding a  name to an inmate's call list, processing for setting up a pre-paid account, and for calling a cell phone may only be settled by litigation.

The FFC has now placed caps on some of these fees that should be in place in local jails within 6 months.

Question 5.  How can the citizens ensure that the next telephone service provided for the jail is performed under competitive bid with no special perks involved?

 As seen in the Cullman Times article from May 24, 2015 the jail telephone services issues is not limited to one jail telephone services provider.

May 24, 2015 Article in the Cullman Times

 Families bear burden of costly inmate visitation, new state regulations capping telephone fees in effect

Last week, a mother and her two daughters sat in front of a video monitor at the Cullman County Detention Center, waiting to see and speak with the family’s patriarch.
They got to chat with the inmate for 30 minutes — the two girls in their early teens periodically squabbling for a chance to talk with their father. The 30-minute visit cost $7.50, or 25 cents a minute.
In January, the calls will be cheaper, falling to 23 cents and then 21 cents beginning January 2017. An order issued by the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) capping charges for inmate telephone calls took effect July 1.
In addition to capping fees, the order requires telephone companies providing visitation services at county jails and state prisons to charge the same for local and in-state calls. The PSC also capped fees on payments made at electronic onsite kiosks, online and through automated voicemail at $3.
These new rates affect all jail phone providers across the state except for Securus and Global*Tel Link. The two companies are suing the Alabama Public Service Commission in Montgomery Circuit Court to stop the new rates from taking effect. The two firms will have to pay back fees if their appeal is denied.
According to the commission, telephone companies have long misrepresented the cost of their services to authorities and pumped up phone bills with excessive charges.
“Only those security features essential for protecting the inmate population and the general public from abuses associated with inmate calling should be recoverable via inmate rates,” the PSC’s order states. “The cost of features that have no direct bearing on inmate call security, providing no direct and significant protection for inmates and the general public, should be borne by the cost causer, not inmates and inmate families. Alabama inmates and their families shall not be used to recover the developmental costs and ensure the profitability for every security feature providers seek to develop and market to law enforcement.”
When the PSC reviewed call logs from the Shelby County Jail, one of the state’s largest county jails, it found the call volume increased by 27 percent with newly adopted capped rates, and revenue to its telephone provider was virtually unchanged.
On July 13, Gale and Sue Williams visited with their granddaughter incarcerated at the Cullman County Detention Center for free. However, her sister had to pay when she visited later that day.

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