In the days before her fiance’s suicide in jail, Fall River mental health clinician Kellie Pearson argued with him over the cost of his phone calls home.
“For Michael, I think that just put more pressure on him and made him feel worse,” she said.
Michael T. Ray was a big part of her life and their teenage daughter’s life, but the calls from the Bristol County House of Correction, at rates set by a jail contract, were a financial burden.
Now Pearson and three other plaintiffs are suing Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson and the telephone contractor, Texas-based Securus Technologies, alleging that the company’s payments to Hodgson’s office constitute “illegal kickbacks” and have nearly doubled the cost of inmate calls.
Lizz Matos, a staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services, said they were able to file the lawsuit now because about 18 months ago, the phone provider wrote to the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable to exempt itself from regulation on the basis of being an Internet Protocol-enabled phone service. As an unregulated company, it can be sued, she said.