For detainees in the Oklahoma County Jail, there is reason to hope that a new phone system for them will mean less cost and better service.
People incarcerated in jails and prisons use special phone systems that charge detainees for their phone calls by the minute and other communication services.
In Oklahoma County, complaints have piled up for years now about the poor quality of the current phone system and the high costs to detainees.
Monday, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority or Jail Trust passed a motion to develop a new contract with the current provider, Telemate, to make commitments of more service by way of competition with another company and the threat of losing their contract.
In the agreement, the Jail guarantees at least $1.25 million to the company in case their revenue from charges doesn’t reach that amount.
Months ago the trust passed a motion to change the jail’s service to Securus Technologies which had made promises of better service and investment into the frayed phone infrastructure of the Jail.
But, at the last meeting of the Trust, Telemate reached out to trustees and asked to be reconsidered, which was granted.
The result of today’s deliberations was that the Telemate offer was accepted. The new contract will be an amendment to the main agreement already in place with Telemate calling for new features, equipment, and services.
Notable for families of detainees is that the new per-minute fee will be 16 cents, down considerably from the current fee.
The whole amendment to the agreement voted in unanimously today is embedded at the end.
For quick reference here are the main features from the agreement:
Both companies touted their offerings of self-help courses that detainees could watch on tablets provided for a fee. Also, other entertainment programs could be purchased by detainees.
Extras for the Jail
To sweeten the deal for the Jail, Telemate added in some new equipment intended to help Jail staff in monitoring communications.
Detection devices were added to the deal to sniff out contraband cell phones. Some detainees use cell phones that are smuggled in to conduct business with associates outside the jail and even to coordinate violent and non-violent illegal activities within the jail.
Handheld metal detectors are also a part of the deal as well as equipment to glean information from contraband cell phones.
Also, a functioning emergency button inside of cells was discussed with both representatives.
The Trust passed a motion to implement their choice of Telemate made in a previous motion. Also a part of the actions taken were to revoke the agreements they had made with Securus Technologies at earlier dates.
It calls for Chair Tricia Everest and/or the Jail CEO to continue work on the final details of implementing the new agreement. They are to bring the refined agreement back to the Trust for final approval in the December 7 meeting.
This was the first Jail Trust meeting where a group of protesters have not shown up to disrupt the meeting with shouts and demands to be heard outside of the regular order of the meeting.
In past meetings their protests have been mostly prompted by what protesters to be underhanded maneuvers by Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey to siphon all CARES Act funds to expenditures on the jail instead of using some of the money for assistance to small businesses in the county outside of Oklahoma City limits.
Monday, at least seven people showed up and refused to wear masks, a precaution accepted medicine and public health experts have shown reduces the spread of a pandemic.
Several speakers rose to encourage the Trust to not listen to the protesters they called “bullies” (a term Commissioner Calvey first applied to the protesters).
One speaker during public comments was Carol Hefner, Oklahoma City socialite, and conservative political activist. She encouraged the Trust to ask for the remaining $10 million to be used on the Jail because it is in such bad shape and a health hazard to the “inmates” who then could continue to infect members of the wider community.
Hefner also set copies of a flyer in seats before the meeting that was critical of members of the group who have been protesting at the meeting.
Proposed agreement with charts and illustrations of new equipment.Oklahoma-County-OK-Nineth-Amendment-Inmate-Telecommunications-Location-Extension-Agreement-26OCT20-with-Blue-Highlights
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