View Full Version : Phone calls - a perspective


jbmccormick
09-17-2002, 08:47 AM
These companies are raping the families with thier inflated prices. It is a horrible deal they are doing.

However, I sure wish I could even get a phone call. Such is just not possible. Texas only allows FIVE minutes and then only ONCE every three months, if and only if the inmate is completely case free with NO write ups at all. Such is nearly impossible in TDCJ.

The good news is that once she is released, I will be able to call her when I am at work. It will be so beautiful to be able to talk to her. I will appreciate the fact that I can talk to her, even though it will be over a radio patched to the phone system. Sure, it will be full of static, sound like we are talking into a can and the tone will be really hard to understand, but it will only cost me $4.99 a minute with a 3 minute minimum. A normal 15 minute call will cost me only $74.85 plus tax. I understand that there is a "premium" service that will save me an incredible amount of money over this, but I didn't know about that until I went to the site. I will look into this, but this is what I've had to pay in the past.

I did pay for the upgrade service so that if I am close to shore, it will only cost me $.99 a minute!! That phone call will be incredibly cheap at only $14.85! Unfortunately I almost never can use that cheaper service. The membership here is only $25 a year to get this cheap rate. Othwise it is $7.50 to connect and ALSO $2.99 a minute with a three minute minimum, or something like that. But, come on... $25 a year? Please. I signed up! LOL OBVIOUSLY.

I will probably have to buy a sattellite phone. It will only cost $800 for the phone and about $50 a month, get 120 minutes and then $0.75 a minute. The good part with the sattellite phone is that it has some "bundled" minutes, but it could also go under and I'd have to eat the cost of the phone and what I paid into it. Now, this price is SIGNIFICANTLY less than it was only a couple months ago!!! Globalstar phones are kind of big but they will also work on the CDMA digital networks (I think Verizon has it, but it will not work on SprintPCS) and also standard analog. HOWEVER, those require their own service contracts.

If anybody wants to check my facts, the first company and the one I'd have to use is WLO radio out of Mobile, AL. Their site is http://www.wloradio.com. The second is Maritel. Their site is http://www.maritelusa.com/r-plansnpricing.htm. Now, that is for the "recreational" boater. The plan I have is the "crew" plan or something like that. I am a professional mariner, so I think that may have something to do with it, why it is less than the recreational, I have no idea. Lastly, there is the sattellite phones. http://www.globalstarusa.com/pricing/serviceplans/.

I just wanted to put this into a little perspective. It does NOT change that what the prison systems and phone companies are doing is DEAD WRONG and SHOULD be illegal! However, if I could receive a phone call once a week from my fiance for just 10 minutes, I'd gladly pay the $40 or so it will cost me a month. I will be paying more than that when she gets out.

Reform is REQUIRED in this area. The system can still make their profit for the officer's MWR or the inmate recreation fund or whatever. The phone card system is in place and works perfectly. There are so many different ways this all can be accomplished. I'm sick and tired of the excuses by the system that it "can't be done" for some bullshit excuse or another. I searched the Internet on this once and found a couple of different DOC systems that actually had studies that SHOWED AND PROVED that the current system is rediculous and they could even make MORE money by saving the familes money because of the increased volumes of sales with phone cards or similiar systems.

I did call MCI and received the proverbial run around. What I did gather was that EVERY SINGLE UNIT/PRISON is different in their pricing, EVEN if they are in the same state. Can you believe that shit? Also, you NEVER get a choice who the carrier is (according to them). They said that each phone company bids for the contract and they have exclusive rights there. Is this insane or what? I thought a monopoly was illegal?

Lets all strive for reform. Push for the win/win. It exists right now and is available right now with current technology.

Respectfully submitted IMO,

Jim

jbmccormick
09-18-2002, 03:10 PM
Someone asked me to clarify what it is that I do for a living because they didn't understand what it is I am talking about with the information I presented.

I am a USCG licensed merchant mariner and the industry I work in is the oil and mineral exploration and exploitation in offshore waters. The area I work in is domestic and in the Gulf of Mexico generally off the coast from Brownsville, TX (border of Mexico) and Mobile, AL. I could end up working anywhere in the world, but this is the predominant area of my operations.

The vessels I work on are offshore supply vessels and basically my job is to bring the materials and supplies out to the drilling rigs or construction sites. Sometimes we work for a production platform, but those are rare.

The standard schedule is 28 days on the vessel and 14 days off. A day (at least) is lost going to work and a day is lost returning home. If everything goes perfectly (rare) it amounts to 30 days involved with work and 12 days home with family. Of the 28 days, how many are actually at sea? Good question. I've spent the entire 28 days tied to the dock and also the entire 28 days offshore without ever coming in to land.

We are USUALLY within 200 nautical miles from shore so the satellite phone option I listed above should work perfectly, however cell phones do not work. Yes, there is cellular service but it costs a lot of money every month (I THINK it was $25 a month) and then costs $.99 a minute with NO free minutes included. If one "roams" with them, it is at least $3.50 a minute and you do not get a warning. The two companies for that are Petrocom and Coastel. I may have the spellings off, but that is what their phoenetic is and I don't deal with either if I can help it.

One has to be within 50 nautical miles of a coast STATION for Maritel to work. That isn't often. If we need to call home for any reason (except an emergency) we usually are forced to use WLO radio on the Single Side-Band Radio (think really big CB radio but with a lot of static, the whole world listening and at $4.99 a minute). I said except for an emergency because the company I had previously worked for had phone patch equipment and if there was an emergency, we would use that equipment for a quick phone call. Those were free (if long distance, the company paid it).

Our vessels out here do not regularly have phones aboard and if they do, the companies will not usually pay for those calls and the person making the phone call will have to pay for it. One man got nailed for a $2500 phone bill or more. He made a call and "forgot" to end the call and was being charged like $9.50 a minute or something rediculous like that (it was INMARSAT and I would never consider them!). INMARSAT phones are really weird looking and don't work normally at all. This is very easy to do and EVERY call is an international call. Poor guy used it like his normal cell phone.

Again, I hope this provides a different perspective and more information that is at least interesting. Also, just to repeat myself from my original post, this is in NO WAY suggesting that I "don't think it is that bad" what the phone companies are doing. I am personally furious that they can get away with this crap and something MUST be done about it. I just don't see how it can be done without a formal complaint being submitted to the FCC and/or congress. Personally, I will be in line immediately to sign any such petition or drive.

Respectfully submitted in my opinion,

Jim

Ken
09-18-2002, 05:11 PM
Jim,

I have been looking through the FCC web site in regard to prison phone systems and they APPROVE the increased rates for this kind of service. I don't remember the wording or the exact link right now, but I will find it and post it. I am not suggesting that petitioning the FCC or any government body is not a good idea, but I did get the impression that the FCC accepts this rate thing with prisons to be OK...???