Skubick: Tech company profiting off prison video-calls while state receives no profits, lawmaker says

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – A local state lawmaker is told 6 News tonight that she is looking into a lucrative state contract for a company that is providing free video terminals in every state prison so inmates can go virtual with their loved ones, but as our capitol correspondent Tim Skubick discovered, the company is making a bundle and the state is not sharing in the profits.

Under the old system, if inmates wanted to talk to their families or friends it had to be done in person.

But with all this modern technology around us, the corrections department hired Global Tel Link (GTL) to provide 8 video terminals in all 25 of the state prisons and 16 terminals in the women’s prison.  

The company offered to install the equipment at no cost to the state, which was obviously a savings for state taxpayers.

In return for the freebie, the company gets all the profits from the calls at a rate of 16 cents a minute.

On October 4, prison inmates logged 482,212 minutes of conversations and the company netted a cool $77,000 and the state got zip.

“If they are charging that much for phone calls, I feel like maybe there should be some sort of value to the state as well for that service to be in there and for that much of a profit,” said State Rep. Sarah Lightner, a Republican on the Prison Budget Committee.

Lightner was unaware of this contract and promises to look into it, so that state taxpayers could see fewer of their dollars going into the prison system if the company shared some of its hefty profits.

“Why are we spending almost $2 billion in general fund money when they could share part of that and offset some of these costs and therefore showing value to our taxpayers for that service,” said Lightner.

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