Local News

Wake Collects on Inmate Calls

Posted January 4, 2007

— After the first free call required by law, inmates in the Wake County Jail who want to reach the outside world must call collect, and the county is collecting thousands on those calls.

One hundred phones hang on the walls of the jail. A company called PayTel supplies and maintains the phones, controls the calls and billing and hands over a share of revenues to the jail.

Paytel charges $1.65 for every 10-minute local call, plus fees. A company spokesman said that rate is the lowest for inmates nationwide.

Last year, inmate calls generated $400,000 for the jail's general fund.

"It's saving taxpayers money," said Sheriff Donnie Harrison, whose department manages the jail.

David Aben, the father of an inmate, doesn't like the arrangement. When his daughter was picked up for a probation violation last week and tried to call him to work out legal advice, he said he had to put down a $50 dollar prepayment for calls.

"I really feel like I'm being extorted," Aben said. "I feel like they want me to switch over services or pay them these exorbitant fees just to accept these calls."

The PayTel spokesman said Aben received bad information on the prepayment. The initial charge is $25 dollars, and customers get refunds for minutes that go unused, the spokesman said.

Harrison backed PayTel's policies, saying the company has the right to guarantee payment. Phone access in jail is a privilege, and people can turn down any call from an inmate, he said.

"This is not a hotel. It's not a motel. If not being able to make a phone call keeps them from coming back, that tickles me to death," he said.

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  • vross Feb 8, 2007

    I see where people agree that jail is for rehabilitation. But when they are released they can't find jobs or a decent living or place to stay. Do our judicial system reform criminals or create them? Sure Sheriff Harrison will do what the wealthy public like, They don't stay in high crime neighborhoods. They go into the neighborhoods and do their dirt and return to their gated estates.
    Not to change the subject. Inmates need to contact their families. They should be able to do it at a cheap cost. Inmates shouldn't be responsible for the officers salaries and the cost of priviledges out of the boundaries an officer. Taxpayers are poor as well as rich.

  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Jan 4, 2007

    Believe it or not... some of the people in there --not most of them-- are innocent. Lack of REAL medical care with a percentage of medication mysteriously disappearing, having your cash, your cigarettes & cigars, your belt, and even your freakin' shoelaces stolen on the way out the door with threats to lock you back up if you complain makes for a pretty good deterrent as well.

  • DOG Jan 4, 2007

    I've been told that before Donnie Harrison was elected Sheriff the jail WAS run like a hotel. This was told to me by someone who has stayed there several times.

  • diwanicki Jan 4, 2007

    I agree, you don't have to accept the call. One call a week is good if you do acccept them. Ever hear of a thing called pencil and paper? If they didn't break the law they would be in jail to start with. Your daughter could have called from the counselors office to set something up. Been through this with ex husband so I know what I'm talking about.