For the 95-year-old mother of one inmate, the high costs of taking phone calls from the Bristol County House of Correction forced her to choose between paying medical bills and talking to her son.
Pearson is among four plaintiffs, two of them inmates, who have sued Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson and Securus Technologies Inc., a Texas-based company that provides phone services for inmates across the country, over the high phone rates. The lawsuit alleges that the sheriff office’s contract with Securus represented an illegal kickback scheme that has nearly doubled the cost of calls made from county jails.
The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday by lawyers representing prisoners and consumer rights, alleges that between August 2011 and June 2013, Securus paid Hodgson’s office $1.7 million in exchange for an exclusive contract to provide phone services to inmates. It currently pays the sheriff’s office $820,000 a year.
The company offsets the high cost of the contract by overcharging friends, lawyers, and families of inmates who must set up accounts with Securus to get calls from their loved ones, according to the lawsuit.
“We’re hoping this [case] establishes a principle that these kinds of kickbacks should be illegal everywhere,” said Bonnie Tenneriello, a staff attorney with Prisoners’ Legal Services.
Read the press release here.
Read the complaint here.