Please welcome Communications Director, Mike Wessler!

by Jenny Landon, April 2, 2021

Mike Wessler

We are excited to welcome our new Communications Director Mike Wessler. Mike has more than a decade of experience helping campaigns, political parties, nonprofit organizations and elected officials accomplish their goals through strategic communication. Mike has done communications work at the Massachusetts Office of the State Auditor and the Office of the Montana Governor, as well at the Montana Department of Labor and the Montana Democratic Party. Mike has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Florida State University.

Welcome, Mike!


by Katie Rose Quandt and Andrea Fenster, March 23, 2021

Families with loved ones incarcerated in New York State prisons pay some of the lowest phone fees in the entire country. Meanwhile, those with loved ones in the state’s county jails have some of the highest phone costs. How can this be?

It’s all about the incentives. In 2007, New York State passed progressive legislation requiring contracts between state prisons and private phone companies to be negotiated “for the lowest price to the consumer,” and prohibiting the department of corrections from accepting commissions on phone calls. (Nationwide, the commission-based structure of correctional phone calls is a major factor driving up costs for the consumer.) New York’s legislation, however, does not apply to county and city jails, meaning counties are free to choose the phone company that charges the most and kicks the most revenue back to the jail. As a result of this loophole, the average 15-minute call from a New York jail costs seven times more than an identical call from a state prison.

These exorbitant phone rates cost some the poorest residents of New York State — and a group disproportionately made up of women of color — more than $13 million a year just to talk to their jailed loved ones.1 The role played by counties in driving up these costs is clearly demonstrated in our new dataset of commission percentages paid by phone companies to New York county jails. We found that the majority of the cost of an average jail phone call — 64 cents on the dollar — is kicked back from the service provider to the county or jail. In some counties, as much as 86% of jail phone call revenue ends up in the pockets of the county government.2

Cost of a 15-minute phone call in New York county jails — and how much more affordable they could be without commissions

Throughout New York State, counties collect significant commissions from their jail phone providers, driving up costs for families. Here, we collected the current cost of a 15-minute, in-state phone call from each county’s jail, using the rate lookup tools on the phone providers’ websites on March 9, 2021. Unlike in other states, the vast majority of New York counties have chosen to contract with GTL.3 (The five counties of New York City are not included here because New York City made all jail calls free in 2019.)
In this table, we also calculated the hypothetical cost of a 15-minute call if commissions were waived, based on a scenario where a county waives its commissions and asks the phone provider to lower the call rate proportionately (for example, if Albany County waived its 86% commission, and the cost of the call dropped by 86%, from $7.50 to $1.05). In reality, a county that took such a step would likely also strike a harder bargain with the private phone company, reducing rates even further. In every county, we were able to find current phone rates on the phone providers’ websites. However, for some counties, we could not calculate the current commission rate or hypothetical cost of a phone call if commissions were waived, because the county did provide a contract in response to public record requests.
County Phone services provider Current cost of a 15‑minute phone call Hypothetical cost of a 15‑minute call if commissions were waived Kickback percentage in contract
Albany Securus $7.50 $1.05 86%
Allegany GTL $2.25 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Broome GTL $3.00 $1.68 44%
Cattaraugus GTL $9.95 $4.48 55%
Cayuga GTL $3.00 $1.35 55%
Chautauqua GTL $2.25 $1.17 48%
Chemung GTL $8.50 $3.83 55%
Chenango GTL $3.00 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Clinton GTL $3.75 $2.10 44%
Columbia GTL $2.25 Cannot calculate Contract does not specify commission amount
Cortland GTL $2.25 $1.01 55%
Delaware GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Dutchess GTL $9.95 $4.48 55%
Erie ICSolutions $3.15 $1.15 63.50%
Essex GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Franklin GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Fulton GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Genesee Securus $7.50 $1.50 80%
Greene GTL $9.95 $5.57 44%
Hamilton Frontier Communications $0.00 $0.00 0%
Herkimer GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Jefferson GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Lewis GTL $3.00 $1.35 55%
Livingston GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Madison GTL $9.95 $1.99 80%
Monroe Securus $1.50 $0.32 78.50%
Montgomery GTL $3.00 $1.68 44%
Nassau GTL $9.95 $4.58 54%
Niagara GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Oneida GTL $9.95 $5.47 45%
Onondaga ICSolutions $2.25 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Ontario Securus $3.15 $1.10 65%
Orange GTL $9.95 $4.98 50%
Orleans ICSolutions $3.15 Cannot calculate Contract does not specify commission amount
Oswego GTL $3.75 $0.75 80%
Otsego GTL $2.25 $1.26 44%
Putnam GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Rensselaer GTL $2.25 $1.01 55%
Rockland GTL $9.95 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Saratoga GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Schenectady GTL $9.95 $4.48 55%
Schoharie GTL $3.00 $1.35 55% of billed or prepaid
Schuyler GTL $3.00 $1.35 55%
Seneca GTL $9.95 $1.99 80%
St. Lawrence GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Steuben GTL $9.95 $5.57 44%
Suffolk Securus $7.50 $1.05 86%
Sullivan Securus $7.50 $3.30 56%
Tioga GTL $9.95 $1.99 80%
Tompkins GTL $2.25 $0.45 80%
Ulster Securus $2.10 Cannot calculate Did not provide contract
Warren GTL $9.95 Cannot calculate Contract does not specify commission amount
Washington GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%
Wayne GTL $2.25 $1.26 44%
Westchester GTL $2.25 $0.86 62%
Wyoming GTL $2.40 $0.48 80%
Yates GTL $3.00 $0.60 80%

These high commissions translate to high costs for families. We found that in 2019, a 15-minute phone call from the average jail in New York was more expensive than the average jail phone call in 43 states. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If individual New York counties pledged to waive the income they earn off the backs of their poorest residents, the cost of a 15-minute phone call would instantly drop significantly. And if the state stepped in with legislation requiring jail phone contracts to be negotiated on the basis of the lowest cost to the consumer (like it already requires of prisons), the rates would go down even further.

In fact, there are several solutions that would reduce phone costs for families of jailed New Yorkers:

  1. Individual counties should immediately tell their provider they want to waive their commission and see the cost of phone calls proportionally reduced for the consumer. (This would ultimately benefit the counties themselves. Many people in jails will soon return to their communities, and studies show that maintaining close contact with family members is linked to better post-release outcomes and lower rates of recidivism.)
  2. Counties should, in their next contracts, refuse to take a commission, and should negotiate not on the basis of maximizing revenue for the county, but to lower the costs for families. Many contracts in New York counties are expiring in the next few years — some of which will automatically renew unless the county actively seeks a new provider and renegotiates. (See our Expiration Dates appendix for information on when your county’s contract is expiring.)
  3. When seeking a new contract, counties should put out separate Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for each service (such as phone calls, electronic messaging, and video visitation), instead of bundling these services together into a single RFP and contract. In fact, New York State should prohibit jails from signing bundled contracts for multiple services because it obscures the provider’s profits and the true cost of the contract. (For more on the harms of bundling see Footnote 2).
  4. Counties should consider going one step further and paying the cost of phone calls themselves, therefore making calls free for families. New York City became the first US jurisdiction to pick up the tab on jail calls in 2019.4 (This may be less expensive than it sounds. Cities or counties covering the total cost of phone calls can negotiate even lower rates, since the phone companies no longer need to do individualized billing.)
  5. New York State should extend its historic legislation that already bans commissions on phone calls in New York State prisons, and requires prison phone contracts to be negotiated for the lowest price to the consumer. Simply closing this loophole and applying the law to jails would save families at least $13 million on their phone bills.

 

Methodology & Appendices:

This analysis was made possible thanks to detailed public record requests made by George Dahlbender. This collection was supplemented by Andrea Fenster; Worth Rises also generously shared three additional contracts. Finally, although Schenectady and Sullivan counties did not respond to public record requests, we were able to find recent copies of their contracts on Muckrock.com, a nonprofit that helps people and organizations file and share record requests.

In the following four appendix tables, we have highlighted key information from the contracts and other documents that counties provided. We are also providing links to the contracts themselves so that journalists and other advocates can hold the counties accountable:

  1. Commissions pocketed by counties for phone, tablet, and video services
  2. Which counties have bundled contracts?
  3. Where are county kickbacks directed?
  4. When does each county’s contract expire?

Appendix 1: Commissions pocketed by counties for phone, tablet, and video services

This appendix table includes the commissions each county receives for phone calls and other services. Here, we have also provided access to the actual county contracts (and commission reports, where available) to other researchers and advocates. As you can see, the commission rate in a given county is often much higher for phones than for tablets and video services; as we’ve discussed in this article, providers often win contracts by paying huge phone commissions to the counties, while ensuring their own profits via low commissions on bundled services.
Phone Tablet Video Notes
County Provider Phone Commission Percent Additional Payments Guaranteed Minimum Payments Cite in
Document
Provider Commission Cite in
Document
Is commission contingent on 80% of the population having “reasonable access” to tablets? Provider Commission Cite in
Document
Albany Securus 86% One-time $115,000 signing bonus Pre-paid commissions of $1,200,000 in the first year, and $600,000 in each of the second and third year Agreement between the County of Albany and Securus Technologies, Inc. For Inmate Phone and Communication System at the Albany County Correctional Facility para. 3.1 – 3.2 Securus 10% for entertainment, 20% for E-Messaging Agreement between the County of Albany and Securus Technologies, Inc. For Inmate Phone and Communication System at the Albany County Correctional Facility para. 3.4 – 3.5 No Securus 20% Agreement between the County of Albany and Securus Technologies, Inc. For Inmate Phone and Communication System at the Albany County Correctional Facility para. 3.3
Allegany GTL Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Broome GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2, para. 4 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8
Cattaraugus GTL 55% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8
Cayuga GTL 55% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Chautauqua GTL 48% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) GTL 48% GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4
Chemung GTL 55% “…four equal installments of $11,250 at the beginning of each contract year…” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Chenango GTL Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Clinton GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 GTL 25% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A Service Schedule p. 4, para. 8 Yes GTL 25% Amendment Exhibit A Service Schedule p. 4, para. 8
Columbia GTL Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount Contract mentions phone services, but does not specify any commission amount Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount GTL Master Services Agreement p. 1 para. 1 Columbia Dahlbender Archive p. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract The service schedule that is referenced in the contract was not included in the county’s response to a FOIL request.
Cortland GTL 55% “… Premise Provider is compensated on a per call basis, depending on the program implemented, either at a flat amount per call, or on a percentage of the call charge.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 GTL 15% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4, para. 8 Yes Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Delaware GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 GTL 0% Amendment Exhbibit A p. 1-2 para. 6 Not applicable (indicates there is no commission on service) GTL Amendment Exhbibit A p. 1-2 para. 6
Dutchess GTL 55% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Services Agreement p. 2 para. 4 GTL “Company will pay Premise Provider a commission every month based on average monthly revenue per tablet for that month from purchased content (“Content Revenue”)…Furthermore, Company will not owe or pay any commission on the first Eighty Nine Thousand Seven Hundred Dollars ($89,700), in Content Revenue collected.” Commissions range from 0% to 70%. Agreement Exhibit B p. 12-13 para. V.a. No Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Erie ICSolutions 63.50% $70,000 annual Technology Fund, funded on a monthly basis Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment No. 2 to the Agreement for Inmate Telephone System p. 2 para. 5 None Not available at facility FOIA Response p. 1 Not applicable (service not available at facility) ICSolutions 50% on all service fees Amendment No. 2 p. 2 para. 5
Essex GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Master Services Agreement p. 8 GTL 20% of per-minute rate GTL Master Services Agreement p. 11 Yes GTL 20% GTL Master Services Agreement p. 11
Franklin GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Exhibit A p. 3 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Exhibit A p. 3 para. 8
Fulton GTL 80% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Trinity Services Group Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount Trinity Tablet Agreement p. 1-2 Unknown (Contract does not specify any commission amount) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Genesee Securus 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment RFP Proposal p. 452 Securus 20% for entertainment RFP Proposal p. 452 No Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Greene GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Greene County Response p. 3/Agreement p. 3 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Hamilton Frontier Communications 0% Contract did not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment FOIL Response None Not available at facility FOIL Response Not applicable None Not available at facility FOIL Response In response to a FOIL request, Hamilton County stated that phone calls are free at the county jail and did not provide contracts.
Herkimer GTL 80% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Report and Resolution No. 126 p. 1 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Herkimer County responded that it “has no records which meet the specifications of your request” relating to tablet or video services.
Jefferson GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Lewis GTL 55% “Company shall also encumber Twenty-five percent (25%) of the Gross Reveneue billed or prepaid for inmate telephone calls covered by this Agreement, and issue a monthly check to the Premise Provider for this amount in the form of a technology grant” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 3 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Tablet Services Schedule p. 3 Yes GTL 20% Tablet Services Schedule p. 3
Livingston GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 20% Amendment p. 1 para. 2 No GTL 20% (included in tablets) Amendment p. 1 para. 2
Madison GTL 80% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Resolution 19-488 p. 1 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Services Schedule p. 3-4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Services Schedule p. 3-4 para. 8
Monroe Securus 78.50% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Resolution No. 31 of 2020 p. 1 Section 1 Securus 20% on premium tablet content/ 25% eMessaging Resolution No. 31 of 2020 p. 1 Section 1 No Securus 25% Resolution No. 31 of 2020 p. 1 Section 1
Montgomery GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Montgomery County responded on 9/30/2020 that they did not have a current contract. We obtained a contract that is expired, but automatically renews, from Worth Rises. As of 3/12/2021, rates for Montgomery County were listed on the GTL website.
Nassau GTL 54% $100,000 one-time sign-on payment Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment No. 1 p. 1, Use and Occupancy p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Nassau County responded that “no records exist” relating to tablet or video services.
Niagara GTL 80% $50,000 technology grant in both 2017 and 2018 $299,000 per year Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) GTL Contract does not seem to promise a commission Amendment p. 1, para. 3
Oneida GTL 45% $50,000 bonus in 2010 paid over 3 annual installments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Trinity 10% Amendment to the Commissary Services Agreement p. 2 para. 6 No Trinity 10% (included with tablets) Amendment to the Commissary Services Agreement p. 2 para. 6 In response to a request for the current contracts on 7/13/2020, the county provided a contract with Trinity for tablets and phones which expired on 4/20/2020. We assumed that this is the current provider. However, it is possible that the county has switched tablet and video service providers to Telmate, which is owned by GTL. Telmate’s website, as of 3/12/2021, lists that it provides tablets and video here.
Onondaga ICSolutions Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Onondaga County did not provide a response to our FOIL requests.
Ontario Securus 65% Contract does not outline additional payments “Such compensation will be paid monthly with a minimum annual guarantee amount of $75,000. After the first 12 months and each year thereafter during the Term, the minimum annual guarantee will be 80% of the previous 12 month’s actual commissions earned” Agreement Schedule p. 7 Securus 20% of tablet rentals and eMessaging Agreement Schedule p. 10, 11 No Securus Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Agreement Schedule p. 12, Securus Video Visitation Schedule p. 1
Orange GTL 50% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para 5 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Orange County responded “N/A/ no such record” to the request for records relating to tablet and video services. GTL’s website lists that it provides video services as of 3/12/2021.
Orleans ICSolutions Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) Resolution No. 208-519 p. 1 None Not available at facility FOIL Response Not applicable (service not available at facility) ICSolutions Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Resolution No. 208-519 p. 1 Orleans County provided some documents, but did not provide agreements with service providers. The response stated that the records requested “are trade secrets or are submitted to agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which, if disclosed, would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise (POL 87(2)(d)).”
Oswego GTL 80% $1.60 for each Collect2Card call and $0.30 for each Connect2Phone call Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 2 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment p. 4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment p. 4 para. 8
Otsego GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Putnam GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Amendment p. 1, Service Schedule p. 2 para. 6 Unknown Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Only the first page of the service schedule was provided.
Rensselaer GTL 55% Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) $200,000 annual guarantee Amendment p. 1 para. 1-2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) GTL Contract does not seem to promise a commission Amendment p. 1 para. 3
Rockland GTL Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) FOIL Response Rockland County responded that Corrections does not keep responsive records. We checked service provider websites to see if Rockland County was listed; we found the county on both the GTL and Securus websites. Since GTL is also listed on the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office website, we assume this is the correct phone service provider.
Saratoga GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 Keefe 15% Addendum to Commissary Service Agreement para. 3 No Keefe 15% (included in tablets) Exhibit A Description of Services p. 1
Schenectady GTL 55% “… Premise Provider is compensated on a per call basis, depending on the program implemented, either at a flat amount per call, or on a percentage of the call charge.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Services Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Schenectady County did not provide a response to FOIL requests. However, we obtained a contract from MuckRock.com. In addition, GTL’s website lists Schenectady County as one of the places it serves.
Schoharie GTL 55% of billed or prepaid “Company shall also encumber Twenty-five percent (25%) of the Gross Reveneue billed or prepaid for inmate telephone calls covered by this Agreement, and issue a monthly check to the Premise Provider for this amount.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Service Schedule p. 2 para. 3 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8
Schuyler GTL 55% “… Premise Provider is compensated on a per call basis, depending on the program implemented, either at a flat amount per call, or on a percentage of the call charge.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Seneca GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
St. Lawrence GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 10% Addendum to St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office para. 4 No GTL Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Addendum to St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office para. 2
Steuben GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Agreement p. 2 para. 4 GTL 0% Amendment p. 1 para. 2 Not applicable (indicates there is no commission on service) GTL Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Amendment p. 2 para. 6.a.ii
Suffolk Securus 86% $1.60 per PayNow call + $0.30 per Text2Connect transaction fee Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Agreement Exhibit E p. 35 para. 6 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Sullivan GTL 56% $27,000 one-time signing bonus Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Sullivan County did not provide a response to FOIL requests. However, we obtained a recent contract from MuckRock.com. In addition, Securus’s website lists Sullivan County as one of the places it serves.
Tioga GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 3 None Not available at facility FOIL Response Not applicable (service not available at facility) None Not available at facility FOIL Response
Tompkins GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 3 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8
Ulster Securus Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Warren GTL Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify any commission amount) Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) Unknown (Contract mentions these services, but does not specify commission details) Contract Extension Between County of Warren and Global Tel*Link Corporation p. 1 None Not available at facility FOIL Response Not applicable (service not available at facility) None Not available at facility FOIL Response Some documentation was provided in response to a FOIL request, although the contract itself was not provided.
Washington GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 20% of per-minute rate Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8 Yes GTL 20% Amendment Exhibit A p. 4 para. 8
Wayne GTL 44% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment GTL Inmate Telephone Service Agreement p. 1-2 para. 4 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Westchester GTL 62% “… B) put in escrow $200,000.00 to be used for enhanced technology at the County’s request; C) roll over an escrow balance of $61,652.63 remaining from the previous agreement into the new term; …” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Global Tel Link August 2018 – July 2021 p. 2 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Primonics (Securus) County pays Primonics $4748.33 per month Primonics Contract No. 5717BPS p. 2
Wyoming GTL 80% “… Premise Provider is compensated on a per call basis, depending on the program implemented, either at a flat amount per call, or on a percentage of the call charge.” Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Resolution No. 20-129 p. 1 Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Unknown (did not provide contract) Did not provide contract
Yates GTL 80% Contract does not outline additional payments Contract does not guarantee minimum payment Amendment p. 1 para. 1 GTL 20% Amendment p. 1 para. 2 No GTL 20% Amendment p. 1 para. 2

Appendix 2: Which counties have bundled contracts?

This appendix table shows that the majority of counties bundle together phone calls and other services into a single contract. Bundling services together usually adds additional costs for the consumers. We chose to distinguish between counties (such as Albany) that bundled together services from a single vendor within the initial contract, and other counties (such as Broome) that signed a phone contract and then later added non-phone services to that contract via amendment. Both of these scenarios are concerning for different reasons: When counties bundle from the outset, providers can obscure the true cost of the contract and the provider’s profits, as explained in Footnote 2. And when counties add new services onto an existing contract instead of putting out a competitive request for proposals, they fail to consider whether a competing company could provide either the existing or newly-added services at a lower cost.
County Are Services Bundled?
Albany Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Allegany Unknown (Did not provide contract)
Broome Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Cattaraugus Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Cayuga Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Chautauqua Yes: Phone and video services were bundled in initial contract
Chemung Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Chenango Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Clinton Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Columbia Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Cortland Yes: Tablet services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Delaware Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Dutchess Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Erie Yes: Video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Essex Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Franklin Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Fulton No: Has contracts with different providers for phone and tablet services
Genesee Yes: Phone and video services were bundled in initial documents
Greene Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Hamilton N/A (Facility does not offer tablet and video services)
Herkimer Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Jefferson Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Lewis Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Livingston Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Madison Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Monroe Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services were bundled in initial contract
Montgomery Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Nassau Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Niagara Yes: Video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Oneida Unclear: County provided contracts for different providers for phone services and tablet/video services (GTL for phones and Trinity for tablets and video). However, Telmate, a GTL subsidiary, lists that it provides tablet and video services to Oneida County on its website.
Onondaga Unknown (Did not provide phone, tablet, or video contracts)
Ontario Yes: Phone, Tablet, Video were bundled in initial contract
Orange Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Orleans Unknown (Did not provide full phone and video contracts)
Oswego Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Otsego Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Putnam Yes: Tablet services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Rensselaer Yes: Video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Rockland Unknown (Did not provide phone, tablet, or video contracts)
Saratoga Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment (The phone and tablet provider is Keefe, which is owned by GTL)
Schenectady Unknown (Did not provide phone, tablet, or video contracts)
Schoharie Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Schuyler Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Seneca Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
St. Lawrence Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Steuben Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Suffolk Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Sullivan Unknown (Did not provide phone, tablet, or video contracts)
Tioga N/A (Facility does not offer tablet and video services)
Tompkins Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Ulster Unknown (Did not provide contract)
Warren N/A (Facility does not offer tablet and video services)
Washington Yes: Tablet and video services were added to existing phone contract via amendment
Wayne Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Westchester No: Has contracts with different providers for phone and video services (county did not provide a tablet contract)
Wyoming Unknown (Did not provide Tablet and Video contracts)
Yates Yes: Phone, tablet, and video services are in a single contract (unknown if it was set up this way initially or if additional services were added to existing contract via amendment)

Appendix 3: Where are county kickbacks directed?

Different county contracts specify different payees for the commissions. In some cases, kickbacks are paid directly to the jail, in others to the county more broadly, and in still others to a specified fund. For each county, this table shows the payee listed in the county contract.
Of course, as we have argued for years, these kickbacks are inappropriate no matter who technically receives them. As Verizon, a vocal opponent of predatory phone calls, noted in a comment to the FCC: “DOCs may use commissions to fund beneficial inmate services that may not otherwise receive funding. But forcing inmates’s families to fund these programs through their calling rates is not the answer. Because higher rates necessarily reduce inmates’s telephone communications with their families and thus impede the well-recognized societal benefits resulting from such communications, other funding sources should be pursued.”
County Phones Tablets Video
Albany County County County
Allegany Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Broome Broome County Jail/Premises Provider Broome County Jail/Premises Provider Broome County Jail/Premises Provider
Cattaraugus Cattaraugus County, Attn: Sheriff’s Office Premises Provider Premises Provider
Cayuga Cayuga County Jail, Sheriff David S. Gould Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Chautauqua Chautauqua County Jail Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Chautauqua County Jail
Chemung Chemung County Jail, Attn: Sheriff Christopher J. Moss Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Chenango Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Clinton Clinton County Jail, Attn: David Farro, Sheriff Clinton County Jail/Premises Provider Clinton County Jail/Premises Provider
Columbia Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Cortland Cortland County Jail Cortland County Sheriff’s Department/Premise Provider Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Delaware Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Dutchess Dutchess County Sheriff’s Department, Attn: George Krom, Correction Administrator Dutchess County/Premise Provider Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Erie Erie County Sheriff’s Office, NY/Facility County said it does not provide this service Erie County Sheriff’s Office, NY/Facility
Essex Essex County Jail, Attn: Sheriff David Reynolds Essex County Jail/Premises Provider Essex County Jail/Premises Provider
Franklin Franklin County Jail/Premises Provider Franklin County Jail/Premises Provider Franklin County Jail/Premises Provider
Fulton Fulton County Jail, Attn: Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Genesee County Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Greene Greene County Jail, Att: Daniel Frank, County Administrator Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Hamilton County said there are no commissions on phone calls County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Herkimer Herkimer County Jail, Attn: Ms. Judy Higgins (Deposited by county to Account A 3150A.2450A, Commissions, Correctional Facility Fund) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Jefferson Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Lewis County of Lewis/County Lewis County Jail/Premises Provider Lewis County Jail/Premises Provider
Livingston Livingston County, Attn: Chief Deputy Jason Yasso Livingston County Jail/Premises Provider Livingston County Jail/Premises Provider
Madison Madison County Jail, Attn: Sheriff Madison County/ Premises Provider Madison County/Premises Provider
Monroe Jail Administration, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (by county resolution, payments go to trust fund 9620, T99 Jail Commissary-Phone) Jail Administration, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (by county resulotion, payments go to trust fund 9620, T99 Jail Commissary-Phone) Jail Administration, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (by county resulotion, payments go to trust fund 9620, T99 Jail Commissary-Phone)
Montgomery Montgomery County Treasurer Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Nassau Nassau County Correctional Center, Attn: Warren Vandewater, Budget Director Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Niagara Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Oneida Oneida County Sheriff’s Office/Premises Provider Oneida County Sheriff’s Office Oneida County Sheriff’s Office
Onondaga Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Ontario Ontario County/Customer Ontario County/Customer Ontario County/Customer
Orange Karen Daly, Fiscal Manager, Orange County Correctional Facility County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Orleans County County said it does not provide this service County
Oswego Oswego County Correctional Facility Oswego County Correctional Facility/Premises Provider Oswego County Correctional Facility/Premises Provider
Otsego Otsego County Sheriff’s Department Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Putnam Putnam County, NY, Attn: Robert L. Langley Jr., Sheriff Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Rensselaer Rensselaer County Bureau of Finance Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear)
Rockland Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Saratoga County of Saratoga/County Saratoga County Correctional Facility/Client Saratoga County Correctional Facility/Client
Schenectady Finance Department Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Schoharie Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office, ATTN: Sheriff Ron Stevens Schoharie County Jail/Premises Provider Schoharie County Jail/Premises Provider
Schuyler Schuyler County Jail, Attn: Sheriff William E. Yessman Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Seneca Seneca County Jail Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
St. Lawrence St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear)
Steuben Steuben County Jail, Attn: Sheriff Joel Ordway Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear)
Suffolk County of Suffolk/County Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Sullivan Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, Attn: Sheriff Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Tioga Tioga County Jail, Att: Gary W. Howard, Sheriff County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Tompkins Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department/Premises Provider Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department/Premises Provider Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department/Premises Provider
Ulster Unknown (did not provide phone contract) Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Warren Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) County said it does not provide this service County said it does not provide this service
Washington Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Washington County Jail/Premises Provider Washington County Jail/Premises Provider
Wayne Wayne County Sheriff’s Office/Premises Provider Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Westchester County of Westchester/County Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) County said it does not provide this service
Wyoming Wyoming County Jail Unknown (did not provide tablet contract) Unknown (did not provide video contract)
Yates Unknown (county provided incomplete documentation that leaves details of service unclear) Yates County Jail/Premises Provider Yates County Jail/Premises Provider

Appendix 4: When does each county’s contract expire?

Advocates and local politicians can take note of when the current contract in your county is set to expire. Many will automatically renew unless a new contract is sought and negotiated. As you can see, some counties sent contracts that have already expired.
County Expiration date Renewal Terms Notes
Albany 2/11/22 2 one-year options for renewal
Allegany 2014 Automatically renews The full GTL contract was not provided, though the county’s FOIL response indicates that the initial contract expired in 2014 and has been renewed every year since.
Broome 2/14/22 2 one-year options for renewal
Cattaraugus 5/20/22 Does not specify renewal terms
Cayuga 10/28/19 Does not specify renewal terms In response to a request for the current contract on 5/12/2020, the county sent a contract that expired on 10/28/2019.
Chautauqua 5/31/23 Automatically renews This is a 10-year contract.
Chemung 4/10/22 Does not specify renewal terms
Chenango Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided)
Clinton 10/5/23 Automatically renews
Columbia 12/29/20 Automatically renews
Cortland 5/1/21 Automatically renews
Delaware 10/13/23 Does not specify renewal terms
Dutchess 9/29/20 Automatically renews The exact end date of this contract is unclear because the effective date (the date that the Agreement is signed by all parties) is unclear. There are no dates accompanying signatures directly; however, the signature page bears a date of 9/29/15 in the bottom left corner. We assumed that this is the effective date.
Erie 9/30/22 2 one-year options for renewal
Essex 7/1/23 Does not specify renewal terms
Franklin Unknown Unknown Full contracts were not provided; as such, the end date of the contract is unclear. The most recent amendment was signed 9/11/2020.
Fulton GTL: 10/8/23
Trinity: Unknown
GTL: automatically renews
Trinity: Unknown”
Fulton County contracts with GTL for phone services and Trinity for tablets. The agreement with Trinity does not provide an end date. The most recent date of signature on that document is 1/9/2020.
Genesee Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided) Full contracts were not provided; as such, the end date of the contract is unclear. The resolution approving Securus’s proposal, which was provided to us, was signed 5/25/2018.
Greene 6/8/14 Automatically renews
Hamilton Not applicable Not applicable In response to a FOIL request, Herkimer County stated that phone calls are free at the county jail and did not provide contracts.
Herkimer 10/25/19 Automatically renews
Jefferson 4/16/17 Automatically renews
Lewis 4/15/23 Does not specify renewal terms
Livingston GTL: 8/27/2023
Primonics: 7/18/17
Does not specify renewal terms
Madison 11/17/21 Automatically renews
Monroe 4/30/25 5 one-year options for renewal
Montgomery 4/13/17 Automatically renews Montgomery County responded on 9/30/2020 that they did not have a current contract. We obtained a contract that is expired, but automatically renews, from Worth Rises. As of 3/12/2021, rates for Montgomery County were listed on the GTL website.
Nassau 2/7/15 Does not specify renewal terms In response to a request for the current contract on 7/1/2020, the county sent a contract that expired on 2/7/2015. Nassau County also responded that “no records exist” relating to tablet or video services.
Niagara 6/17/21 Does not specify renewal terms
Oneida GTL: 6/15/2012
Trinity: 4/30/2020
GTL: automatically renews
Trinity: Does not specify renewal terms
In response to a request for the current contract on 7/13/2020, the county sent a contract with Trinity for tablets that expired on 4/20/2020. Telmate’s website, as of 3/12/2021, lists that it provides tablets and video here.
Onondaga Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided) Onondaga County did not provide a response to our FOIL requests.
Ontario 10/27/23 1 five-year option for renewal
Orange 2/2/16 3 one-year options for renewal In response to the request for current contracts on 7/10/2020, the county sent a contract that expired on 2/2/2019 at the latest. Orange County responded “N/A no such record” to the request for records relating to tablet and video services. GTL’s website lists that it provides video services as of 3/12/2021.
Orleans 5/31/22 Unclear from the documents provided Orleans County provided no agreements with service providers. The response stated that the records requested “are trade secrets or are submitted to agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which, if disclosed, would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise (POL 87(2)(d)).”
Oswego 1/30/22 Automatically renews
Otsego 12/20/16 Automatically renews
Putnam Either 4/26/24 or 10/22/22 Either automatically renews or 3 one-year automatic renewals The contract states that the term of the agreement runs until 4/26/2024, though an amendment states that the term of the agreement is extended to 10/22/2022 with 3 one-year renewals.
Rensselaer 12/20/19 Unclear from the documents provided In response to the request for the current contracts on 3/1/2021, the county sent a contract that expired on 12/20/2019.
Rockland Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided) Rockland County responded that Corrections does not keep responsive records. Current rates were listed on both the GTL and Securus websites. GTL is listed on the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office website.
Saratoga GTL: Unknown
Keefe: 9/4/24
GTL: Unknown
Keefe: automatically renews
The full GTL contract was not provided; as such, the end date of the contract is unclear. The most recent amendment was signed 3/23/2020.
Schenectady 8/14/20 Automatically renews Schenectady County did not provide response to our FOIL requests. However, we obtained a contract from MuckRock.com. GTL’s website lists Schenectady County as one of the places it serves.
Schoharie 2/11/25 Does not specify renewal terms
Schuyler 3/16/25 Automatically renews
Seneca 8/9/23 Automatically renews
St. Lawrence 2/20/24 Automatically renews
Steuben 2/20/21 Automatically renews
Suffolk 4/30/21 Does not specify renewal terms
Sullivan 5/27/16 Automatically renews Sullivan County did not provide response to our FOIL requests. However, we obtained a recent contract from MuckRock.com. Securus’s website lists Sullivan County as one of the places it serves.
Tioga 5/16/25 Automatically renews
Tompkins 6/15/23 Automatically renews
Ulster Unknown (contract was not provided) Unknown (contract was not provided)
Warren None Automatically renews Some documentation was provided in response to a FOIL request, though the contract itself was not provided.
Washington 4/11/24 Does not specify renewal terms
Wayne 9/11/11 1 two-year option for renewal
Westchester GTL: 6/31/21
Primonics: 5/14/24
Does not specify renewal terms
Wyoming 6/11/24 Does not specify renewal terms
Yates 3/16/21 Does not specify renewal terms

 

Footnotes

  1. This amount was calculated using a conservative estimate of 400 minutes of phone calls per jailed person, per month. This 400-minute estimate was based on the (rounded-down) number of minutes of use at the Albany County Jail from 2019, as well as our previous research into jail phone use. We also assumed an average phone call length of 13 minutes, based on GTL call summaries from 2017. Finally, we determined the average daily population in each jail using reports from the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services.  ↩

  2. You might wonder how private phone companies manage to turn profits in jails, even while paying such a large percentage of phone revenue to the counties in the form of kickbacks. For one, companies charge many additional hidden consumer fees on phone calls that may be exempt from kickbacks. In some instances around the country, this fee harvesting can add up to more than the base, per-minute cost of the call. Secondly, phone companies also make money off other products and services that they bundle together with phone services into a single contract. For example, commission data from Albany County shows that while Securus kicks back a whopping 86% of phone call revenue back to the county, it gives the county just 20% of revenue from video visitation and eMessaging, and 10% of revenue from music, movies, and games. In November and December 2020, according to the commissions report for Albany County, non-phone services amounted to more than three-quarters of Securus’ post-commissions revenue in Albany. These non-phone services often escape regulation and oversight by the FCC and individual states. The bundling of regulated and unregulated services into a single contract thwarts regulators’ ability to set reasonable rates for services, and allows service providers to obscure the amount of unreasonable profits that they collect under a contract, as Stephen Raher notes in his law review article, The Company Store and the Literally Captive Market. (For more on profiteering in the world of prison tablets, see our work on hidden costs in tablet contracts).  ↩

  3. A disproportionate number of New York counties use GTL. The likely reason is that the New York State Sheriff’s Association steers counties to GTL in exchange for 3% of every GTL phone call made from a jail in New York State. This kickback — which is not in the county’s contracts — is documented in a 2019 expose in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. This long-standing arrangement dates back more than 20 years, as described in this 2006 settlement with the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, where the Sheriff’s Association was criticized for not disclosing its financial interest in the awarding of contracts to its then-preferred vendor, AT&T. (AT&T’s jail phone business was acquired by Global Tel*Link in 2005.)

    Other researchers should note that the New York State Sheriff’s Association apparently has GTL funnel the money through a for-profit corporation it controls, “Star Governmental” (see paragraph 26 in the 2006 settlement linked above) which then pays the Sheriff’s Association. These funds are substantial. According to the non-profit tax returns of the New York State Sheriff’s Association, the Association receives approximately $460,000 per year in royalties from Star Governmental ($434,884 in 2016, $458,681 in 2017, $487,112 in 2018).  ↩

  4. New York City is not the only jurisdiction that has made phone calls free. New York’s Monroe County, home to Rochester — which already reduced phone calls to the relatively affordable cost of 10 cents a minute in 2019 — voted in March 2021 to use its phone commission fund to provide 75 minutes of free calls to each person in the jail each week; 30 of the minutes can be used on video calls. These free calls will save families an estimated $30 a month. And this trend is not confined to New York: San Francisco County made jail calls free in 2020, and in March 2021, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to do the same.  ↩


We explain the research showing that violent crimes against Black Americans - especially those in poverty - are less likely to be cleared by police and less likely to receive news coverage than similar crimes against white people.

by Katie Rose Quandt and Alexi Jones, March 18, 2021

Of 89 criminal cases recently solved with the growing but controversial use of genetic genealogy databases — all following the highly-publicized arrest of the Golden State Killer in 2018 — just four were crimes perpetrated against a Black victim. Cases solved with genetic genealogy, as a recent Atlantic article notes, “tended to be notorious crimes” that stuck in the public memory, where evidence was maintained for years and news coverage was widespread.

This racial disparity should be surprising — after all, Black people are more likely to be victims of homicide than people of other races, and are in fact more likely to experience violent crime in general.1 But the lack of “notorious” unsolved crimes involving Black victims is part of a larger American problem: the devaluing of the lives and experiences of Black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), as evidenced by clear racial disparities in crime victimization.

The research shows that not only are Black Americans – especially those in poverty – disproportionately victims of crime, but that crimes against Black people are less likely to be cleared by police and less likely to receive news coverage than crimes against white people. What’s more, crimes with Black victims are also more likely to be deemed “justifiable” by the courts. In this briefing, we highlight and discuss research findings about those disparities.

 

Crimes against Black and Latinx people are less likely to be solved

Chart showing that homicides of Black and Latinx people are less likely to result in arrest. When crimes occur, police are more likely to clear cases in which the victims were white. In a 2018 Washington Post analysis of nearly 50,000 homicides around the country, the authors found that an arrest was made in 63 percent of murders of white victims, compared to 48 percent of those with Latinx victims and 46 percent with Black victims. And within cities throughout the country, the data revealed significant disparities in murder arrest rates between neighborhoods. Low arrest rates in disadvantaged and racially segregated areas both reflect and contribute to broader racial disparities, and as the article notes, “perpetrate cycles of violence in low-arrest areas.”

The journalists note that some of the disparity in arrest rates may stem from the fact that — due to a long history of racist policing — members of comunities of color may be less likely to trust and cooperate with police. An additional factor may be that homicides involving firearms — which are used disproportionately in murders of Black victims — are less likely to be solved, regardless of the race of the victim.2 However, these contributing factors do not explain the overall disparate experiences of violent victimization between BIPOC and white Americans.

 

Disparities in news coverage

Crimes against Black people are also less likely to receive media attention. A 2020 analysis of all news coverage of the 762 homicides in Chicago in 2016 found that where a crime occurred contributed to its perceived newsworthiness. Murders in predominantly Black neighborhoods received less coverage than those in white neighborhoods. What’s more, the authors noted, “Those killed in predominantly Black or Hispanic neighborhoods are also less likely to be discussed as multifaceted, complex people.” To measure this, researchers counted the number of times articles described victims in terms of their roles in the community (such as spouse, grandchild, friend, or volunteer), instead of focusing simply on the details of the crime.

The lack of media attention to crimes involving victims of color may actually explain some of the difference in police clearance rates. News coverage can help make people aware that a crime occurred, lead to information from the public, and keep pressure on police departments. For example, the media and public obsession over certain crimes, dubbed the “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” can mean less attention is given to cases of missing Black people.

 

Disproportionate use of Stand Your Ground laws

Even when a homicide does lead to an arrest, courts are more likely to deem homicides with Black victims “justified” than when the victims are white.
Since Florida enacted its “Stand Your Ground” law in 2005, allowing people to use lethal force if they believe they are in danger, 27 other states have passed similar statutes (an additional eight are Stand Your Ground states by legal precedent or jury instruction). In a 2015 analysis of all homicide cases in Florida from 2005 to 2013 where “Stand Your Ground” was invoked as a defense, the authors found that, after controlling for other variables, defendants were twice as likely to be convicted if the case involved white victims. Another study, which considered nationwide homicide data from 2005 to 2010, found that 11.4% of homicides with a white perpetrator and a Black victim were ruled justified, compared to 1.2% of cases where a Black person killed a white victim. This disparity existed in both states that did and did not have Stand Your Ground laws, but was greater in states with the laws.

Chart showing homicides with Black victims and whit perpetrators are more likely to be deemed "justifiable" than those with Black perpetrators and white victims.

Research shows that the cards are stacked against Black victims of crime. Not only are they more likely to experience crime in the first place, but those crimes are less likely to be publicly covered in the media and solved by police, and more likely to be ruled justified. As the authors of the analysis of homicide news coverage in Chicago noted, “Whereas the loss of White lives is seen as tragic, the loss of Black and Hispanic lives is viewed as normal, acceptable, even inevitable.”

 

Footnotes

  1. Using data from the 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey, Anna Harvey and Taylor Mattia found that Black survey respondents were 22% more likely to experience a serious violent crime than non-Hispanic white respondents. When property crimes were included, the disparity rose to 41%. (In a similar fall 2020 report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) did not find racial disparities in crime victimization in 2018. One major difference between the studies was that the BJS included simple assaults in its analysis, which Harvey and Mattia did not. Notably, neither study includes homicide in its analysis.) Another study found that the 2017 homicide victimization rate for Black Americans was 20.42 per 100,000, compared to 5.2 nationally. And as we know, Black people are more than twice as likely as people of other races to be killed by police, even in situations where there are no obvious circumstances that would make the use of deadly force “reasonable.”

    A major contributing factor to this higher rate of violent victimization is that Black people are twice as likely as white people to live below the poverty line. A Bureau of Justice (BJS) report found that, from 2008 to 2012, both Black and white people living in households below the poverty line are more likely to experience violent victimization than those in low, middle, and high income households. And as The Guardian noted in an article mapping gun violence across the country, gun homicides are extremely concentrated in areas of high poverty, low educational attainment, and “neighborhoods forged out of racial segregation.”
     ↩

  2. According to 2019 FBI data, 83.8% of homicides of Black people involved a gun, compared to 61.8% of homicides of white people and 73.2% of all homicides. Murders involving firearms are often more difficult to solve for a varity of reasons, including the physical distance between shooter and victim, which often leaves less evidence. Regardless of the victim’s race, police are less likely to identify the perpetrator in gun-related homicides.  ↩


A new BJS report shows that U.S. jails reduced their populations by 25% in the first few months of the pandemic. But even then, the U.S. was still putting more people in local jails than most countries incarcerate in total.

by Alexi Jones and Wendy Sawyer, March 17, 2021

Last week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released two reports with updates on city and county jail populations nationwide: Jail Inmates in 2019 and Impact of COVID-19 on the Local Jail Population, January-June 2020. After a year of upheaval due to the pandemic, the first report is already out-of-date and mainly useful as a historical document. The second report, however, answers some important questions about the decisions local officials made when the high stakes of jail incarceration – for individual and public health – were put into stark relief by the pandemic. Their decisions, and the resulting jail population changes in the first half of 2020, hold important lessons for ongoing and future decarceration efforts; here we outline some of those lessons – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good: Significant drops in jail detention early on, and especially for low-level offenses and among women

First, we saw that local law enforcement, courts, and jails were able to quickly reduce jail populations when they had to. Before the pandemic, jails nationwide held almost 742,000 people on any given day, and over the course of the year, there were 10.3 million jail admissions. But by the end of June 2020, the jail population had dropped by 25%; 185,000 fewer people were held in jails in June 2020 compared to June 2019. Most of that change occurred in the first half of 2020, largely fueled by decreasing admissions and, to a lesser extent, by expedited releases due to the pandemic. In the one-year period ending June 30, 2020, there were 1.67 million fewer jail admissions – a 16% drop compared to the preceding year. Of those who were booked into jails between March 1 and June 30, 2020, 208,500 (almost 9%) received an expedited release in response to COVID-19.

Chart showing that jail populations dropped by 25 percent between June 2019 and June 2020. Second, we saw that when pressed, local criminal justice systems did shift toward some of the common-sense changes that reform advocates have long called for (at least temporarily): eliminating unnecessary arrests and incarceration for offenses and violations that don’t threaten public safety, and ending pretrial detention for most, if not all, defendants.

Early in the pandemic, many police departments were encouraged to use arrest as “a tool of last resort,” reducing stops, shifting to citations in lieu of arrest, and adopting other best practices. At the same time, many courts took action to reduce admissions and pretrial detention. For example, Maine state courts vacated all outstanding bench warrants for unpaid court fines and fees and for failure to appear, and California reduced bail to $0 for most low-level offenses. Jail administrators and sheriffs, too, found ways to reduce detention: The Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, Ohio) Jail, for example, stopped admitting people on new misdemeanor charges, except for domestic violence charges.

The BJS Impact of COVID-19 report shows that these local efforts made a difference: The number of people held for misdemeanors dropped by 45% by June 2020 compared to 2019, and the number of people held pretrial dropped by 21% – or about 100,000 people – over the same period. As we have argued before, incarceration is especially counterproductive for people convicted of low-level offenses like misdemeanors, as it cuts people off from their families, housing, and jobs while yielding virtually no benefits to public safety.

Finally, the BJS report shows that these jail population changes also disproportionately benefitted women: The number of women held in local jails decreased by 37% from June 2019 to June 2020, compared to a 23% drop among men. 80% of the women who go to jail are mothers and most of them are primary caretakers of their children. This news is a welcome change from the broader trend of the past few years, in which we have seen increases in women’s jail incarceration while the men’s jail population has fallen.

The bad: Jail reductions didn’t go far enough, and quickly ticked back up

Of course, the Impact of COVID-19 report also reveals some disturbing jail trends during the pandemic. First, local justice systems could and should have done more to further depopulate jails, where social distancing is impossible and the flow of people in and out of facilities puts everyone around them, incarcerated or not, at greater risk. Even after reducing admissions and increasing releases, a significant number of jails were still overcrowded: average jail occupancy rate fell from 81% to 60% from 2019 to 2020, but in June 2020, 1 in 14 jails still held over 100% of their rated capacity.

Chart comparing the U.S. jail incarceration rate at midyear 2020 with the total incarceration rates of other founding NATO countries. The US jail rate is 167 per 100,000, surpassing all peer countries' rates. Furthermore, despite its 25% decline in jail populations, the U.S. jail incarceration rate alone (that is, excluding people held in state and federal prisons) still far exceeds international norms. After cutting jail populations during the early months of the pandemic, the U.S. still locked up more people per capita in jails alone than most countries do in any type of confinement facilities. At the end of June 2020, 167 per 100,000 U.S. residents were held in local jails; that’s still well over the total incarceration rates of peer countries like the U.K., Canada, and France.

It’s easy to see where jail decarceration efforts fell short. In particular, jails could have gone much further in reducing the number of people held pretrial. While it’s good that the number of people held pretrial declined by 21%, 381,000 people were still held pretrial at the end of last June. The percentage of people held in local jails pretrial (69%) was actually higher than at the same time a year before (65% in June 2019). As a reminder, people held pretrial are unconvicted and legally presumed innocent. While some defendants are detained because a court deems them a significant safety or non-appearance risk, many are there simply because they cannot afford to pay cash bail. During normal times pretrial detention has detrimental effects on defendants’ employment, health, housing, financial stability, and family wellbeing, but especially during a pandemic, pretrial detention can also be fatal. For example, two Texas men, aged 64 and 57 (one experiencing homelessness at the time of his arrest), recently died while being held pretrial in the Harris County Jail on $1,000 and $1,500 bonds, respectively. One of them died of COVID-19.

Finally, the BJS report confirms the rebound in jail populations starting in May 2020 that we identified previously using a different data set – indicating that more dramatic population reductions were possible, but efforts were not sustained, with local justice systems only too eager to return to “business as usual.” Jail populations declined by 190,800 (27%) between the end of February and the end of April alone, but in May and June, populations ticked back up by 29,600, essentially undoing over 15% of the cuts achieved before May. This finding is in line with our research showing that jail populations nationwide have been creeping up since late spring. While populations are still lower than they were pre-pandemic, the data suggests the early reforms instituted to mitigate COVID-19 have largely been abandoned. With most people in local jails still unvaccinated, this has put vast numbers of people at enormous and unnecessary risk for COVID-19.

The ugly: Racial disparities in jail incarceration widened during the pandemic

Chart comparing the percent change in jail populations, by race, between June 2019 and June 2020. White jail populations dropped 28%, Latinx populations by 23%, and Black populations by 22%. One especially troubling finding in the Impact of COVID-19 report: The decrease in jail populations did nothing to address the glaring racial disparities in jails. In fact, while the total jail population dropped by 25% between June 2019 and June 2020, racial disparities increased over the same period. In June of 2019, Black people were incarcerated in jails at about 3.3 times the rate of white people; a year later, the racial gap had widened so that Black people were jailed at 3.5 times the rate of white people. Moreover, the decrease in white jail incarceration outpaced the decreases among Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and multi-racial people. For example, the number of white people in jails dropped by almost 28% while the number of Black people in jails fell by only 22%. These findings reflect the dangers of not centering racial justice in decarceration. It is not enough to focus only on “reducing incarceration” – decarceration efforts must also address long-standing racial disparities and should never make the criminal justice system less equitable.

In all, the BJS Impact of COVID-19 report proves that local and state justice systems can quickly and significantly reduce jail populations, as shown by the initial responses to COVID-19 – but it also shows that they could have diverted from jail or released far more people, and far more equitably. Although jail populations dropped significantly at the beginning of the pandemic, these changes did not reduce racial disparities in incarceration, nor did they sufficiently reduce pretrial detention. Even after reducing jail populations, the U.S. jail incarceration rate still greatly exceeds that of our peer countries, and more recent data suggests that jail populations have been increasing steadily since late spring.

Moving forward, justice system authorities should make permanent the strategies that led to the jail reductions achieved during the pandemic, and push themselves to go further now that they have seen what is possible. The number of people jailed for misdemeanors or held pretrial, as well as the number of women in jails, should never return to pre-pandemic levels. Finally, states and counties must take deliberate action to eliminate racial disparities in jails as they take the next steps toward decarceration.


by Wanda Bertram, March 10, 2021

We’re fighting for fair phone rates for people in jail and their families, and we just picked up a big victory. We pressured officials in Iowa to regulate the prices that predatory jail phone companies are charging. And we won.

Why Iowa? When a federal court said the FCC couldn’t regulate the cost of in-state jail phone calls, we adopted a state-by-state strategy. We’ve focused on places where state law allows regulators to cap phone rates, and where jail phone rates are the worst. Iowa is one of those states: Before our recent victory, jails there charged as much as $14.10 for a 15-minute call.

Now, the state Utilities Board has set a limit on the rates that these companies can force consumers to pay. We calculate that the new rules will save Iowans about $1 million every year. As reporter Erin Jordan explains in the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

The Iowa Utilities Board is forcing companies that provide phone service for county jail inmates to lower rates from as high as $1 a minute to a quarter or less.

Until recently, Bremer County had the highest jail phone rates in the state at $14.10 for a 15-minute call, which included $3.74 for the first minute and 74 cents after. Their service provider, Securus, lowered rates to 21 cents a minute — meaning a 15-minute call now will cost just $3.15.

The Utilities Board has not yet approved Securus’s new tariff, but has instructed the company and other providers to keep rates at 25 cents per minute or less for prepaid calls. The board has so far approved new, lower rates for five companies — Prodigy, Network Communication International Corporation, Combined Public Communications, ICSolutions and Global Tel*Link.

The exorbitant phone rates charged by jail phone companies — and ratcheted up by jails that hope to get a kickback — have caused untold suffering for families, particularly during COVID-19. For example, the Gazette interviewed a mother in Des Moines who said she has to limit the number of times her 4-year-old son can call his father, who is incarcerated.

The squeezing of these families for profit has been going on for years, but during the pandemic and recession (with in-person jail visits suspended) it has hit them harder and caused even more anguish. So even as the Prison Policy Initiative celebrates our victory, we’re pushing Iowa to do more.

Yesterday, we wrote to Governor Kim Reynolds, urging her to work with the Iowa Utilities Board to address the remaining issues of fairness for Iowa consumers, including:

  • Rates are still too high. As we wrote in our letter: “During the last year, the Board has unofficially used an informal “rate cap” of roughly 25¢ per minute, based on previous FCC rules imposing interstate rate caps of 21¢ for prepaid calls. However, much has changed since the FCC imposed those interim rate caps in 2013. In October 2020, then-chair of the FCC Ajit Pai announced a new rulemaking to lower interstate rates to 14¢ for calls from prisons, and 16¢ for calls from jails. If the FCC finalizes those changes, then many Iowa carriers would be charging substantially more for in-state calls (up to 25¢) than they could for interstate calls (16¢).”
  • Some companies are seizing unused consumer funds from prepaid accounts that should be returned to the families or turned over to the state’s unclaimed property program.
  • Five companies are “double dipping” on deposit fees, charging two fees for each credit card transaction.
  • At least one company is steering consumers to the most expensive and inefficient way to pay calls: “single calls” that require paying the $3 deposit fee on each and every call.

With at least one county in the U.S. having negotiated jail phone rates down to one cent a minute, it’s clear that companies in Iowa are still charging far more money for a phone call than they need to — so we’re continuing the fight for a better deal for incarcerated Iowans and their families.

Meanwhile, we’re taking our successful Iowa strategy to other states. We’re currently working with a broad coalition of activists and telecom experts who are urging the California Public Utilities Commission to crack down on high jail phone and video-calling rates in that state. The political momentum that we build in these key states will help us put more pressure on the FCC to address continued exploitation in this area. Mass incarceration has created far too many opportunities for companies to get rich at the expense of poor families, and our advocacy won’t stop until that exploitation ends.


Each will help propel the Prison Policy Initiative with new ideas, new energy and new partnerships.

March 4, 2021

Contact: prisonpolicy.board@gmail.com

(Northampton, MA) – The Prison Policy Initiative, a leading research organization in the field of criminal justice, added five new directors to the board of directors to help foster strategic growth. The new members will serve three-year terms:

  1. Sharon Cromwell, Deputy State Director, New York Working Families Party
  2. Ed Epping, AD Falck Professor of Art, Emeritus, Williams College
  3. Timothy Fisher, Professor of Law and former Dean, University of Connecticut School of Law
  4. Leslie M. Smith, IBM Business Development Executive (retired) and Founder / CEO DistancEd. Inc
  5. Paul Watterson, Of Counsel, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

“The Prison Policy Initiative is proud to welcome these five leaders to our board. Each will help propel the Prison Policy Initiative with new ideas, new energy and new partnerships” said the Board’s President, Elena Lavarreda, NJ Political Director, SEIU 32BJ.

Also welcoming the new members are: Nora V. Demleitner, Director, Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law, Daniel Kopf, Board Treasurer, Data Editor, San Francisco Chronicle, and Bernadette Rabuy, Board Clerk, Trial Attorney, Homicide/Major Crime Defense Unit, New York County Defender Services.

In January, the Board participated in a two-day retreat where they set their goals for the coming year, including recruiting additional directors to the Board. “We’re looking forward to supporting the Prison Policy Initiative at this critical transition point, as they welcome new senior staff, including a Director of Advocacy and Communications Director, and expand as an organization with staff in several states,” said Leslie M. Smith, one of the new directors and Founder/CEO DistancEd. Inc., a non-profit that trains computer skills to formerly incarcerated people. Another new director, Ed Epping, shared his excitement about the Prison Policy Initiative’s plans, “The Prison Policy Initiative’s insightful data analysis and powerful graphics have long fueled the national movement for criminal justice reform by filling in key messaging and data gaps. We’re looking forward to supporting the Prison Policy Initiative as it begins to have the dedicated staff and capacity to outreach to local, state, and national advocates and support them with our research.”

The Prison Policy Initiative (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/) was co-founded by Peter Wagner in 2001 to document and publicize how mass incarceration punishes our entire society. Since its inception, the Prison Policy Initiative has gained national recognition for compiling and presenting up-to-date information about the criminal justice system that empowers policymakers, journalists, advocates, and the general public to participate in the justice reform movement. The Department of Justice’s National Institute of Corrections, for example, calls one report “required reading for those people striving to reform the correctional system.” Frequently cited in traditional media as a reliable and accessible source on a number of incarceration issues, the Prison Policy Initiative also has an influential social media presence and demonstrated success in guiding and informing public discourse on incarceration policy. You can find a full list of the Prison Policy Initiative’s most prominent successes at prisonpolicy.org/about.html.

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LGBTQ people are overrepresented at every stage of our criminal justice system, from juvenile justice to parole.

by Alexi Jones, March 2, 2021

The data is clear: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ 1) people are overrepresented at every stage of criminal justice system, starting with juvenile justice system involvement. They are arrested, incarcerated, and subjected to community supervision at significantly higher rates than straight and cisgender people. This is especially true for trans people and queer women. And while incarcerated, LGBTQ individuals are subject to particularly inhumane conditions and treatment.

For this briefing, we’ve compiled the existing research on LGBTQ involvement and experiences with the criminal justice system, and – where the data did not yet exist – analyzed a recent national data set to fill in the gaps. (Namely, we provide the only national estimates for lesbian, gay, or bisexual arrest rates and community supervision rates that we know of.) We present the findings for each stage of the criminal justice system with available data, and pair them with new graphics illustrating the dramatic disparities in the system related to sexuality and gender identity.

 

LGBTQ+ youth in the juvenile justice system

For LGBTQ people, criminal justice involvement often starts at a young age. LGBTQ youth are extremely overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. Researchers estimate that 20% of youth in the juvenile justice system are lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, gender nonconforming, or transgender compared with 4-6% of youth in the general population. The same research shows that 40% of girls (who were assigned female at birth) in the juvenile justice system identify as LBQ and/or gender nonconforming.2 This overrepresentation is largely due to the obstacles that LGBTQ youth face after fleeing abuse and lack of acceptance at home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In order to survive, LGBTQ youth are pushed towards criminalized behaviors such as drug sales, theft, or survival sex, which increase their risk of arrest and confinement.

Chart showing that LGBTQ youth make up 20 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system, despite making up less than 10 percent of the overall youth population.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the criminal justice system

Arrest

High rates of criminal justice system contact continue into adulthood. Our analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reveals that in 2019, gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals (with an arrest rate of 3,620 per 100,000) were 2.25 times as likely to be arrested in the past twelve months than straight individuals (with an arrest rate of 1,610 per 100,000). This disparity is driven by lesbian and bisexual women, who are 4 times as likely to be arrested than straight women (with an arrest rate of 3,860 per 100,000 compared to 860 per 100,000). Meanwhile, gay and bisexual men are 1.35 times as likely to be arrested than straight men (with a rate of 3,210 arrested per 100,000 compared to 2,380 per 100,000):3

Chart showing that 3,860 per 100,000 lesbian and bisexual women report being arrested in the past year, compared to 860 per 100,000 straight women. Gay and bisexual men were arrested at a rate of 3,210 per 100,000, compared to 2,380 per 100,000 straight men.

Sentencing and incarceration

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are also overrepresented in prisons and jails, especially lesbian and bisexual women. Researchers analyzing the most recent National Inmate Survey found that LGB people are incarcerated at a rate over three times that of the total adult population: 1,882 per 100,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are incarcerated, compared with 612 per 100,000 U.S. residents aged 18 and older. This disparity, again, is largely driven by queer women, as evidenced by the researchers’ breakdown of the data by sex. Compared to the general population, in which 3.6% of men and 3.4% of women identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual:

  • 1 in 20 (5.5%) men in prison identify as gay or bisexual and an additional 3.8% report having had sex with men before arrival at the facility but do not self-identify as gay or bisexual.4
  • 1 in 3 (33.3%) women in prison identify as lesbian or bisexual and another 8.8% report having sex with women, but do not identify as lesbian or bisexual.
  • And almost 1 in 4 (24.6%) women in county and municipal jails identify as lesbian or bisexual, with another 9.3% who report having sex with women, but do not identify as lesbian or bisexual.

 

Chart showing lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are incarcerated at three times the rate of straight people, at a rate of 1,882 per 100,000Chart showing lesbian and bisexual women make up a quarter of women in local jails and a third of women in prisons, compared to just over 3 percent of the general population

The high rates of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people behind bars can in part be attributed to the longer sentences courts impose on them. The same study of the National Inmate Survey data found that in both prisons and jails, lesbian or bisexual women were sentenced to longer periods of incarceration than straight women. And gay and bisexual men were more likely than straight men to have sentences longer than 10 years in prison.

While locked up, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are subjected to especially inhumane treatment. The National Inmate Survey study showed these “sexual minorities” were more likely to be put in solitary confinement than straight men and women in prisons and jails. In Black and Pink’s survey of 1,118 LGBTQ incarcerated people, a staggering 85% of respondents reported that they had been held in solitary confinement at some point during their sentence. And BIPOC LGBTQ incarcerated people were twice as likely to put in solitary compared to white LGBTQ incarcerated people. This is often done in the name of “protecting” queer individuals behind bars, despite the well documented, long-lasting harms of solitary confinement. And according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, LGB men and women, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with women (WSW), are also 10 times as likely to be sexually victimized by another incarcerated person and 2.6 times as likely to be victimized by staff as heterosexual incarcerated people:

Chart showing that non-heterosexual people in prison are sexually victimized by both staff and other incarcerated people at higher rates than straight people in prison

Probation and parole

Finally, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are overrepresented in the community supervision population. Our analysis of the NSDUH data reveals that people on probation and parole are almost twice as likely to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual than people not on probation and parole – and again, lesbian and bisexual women are especially overrepresented:

  • Men on probation are somewhat more likely to be gay or bisexual (5.7%) as men not on probation (4.1%).
  • Women on probation are nearly three times as likely to be lesbian or bisexual (16.7%) as women not on probation (6.3%).
  • Men on parole are nearly twice as likely to be gay or bisexual (7.9%) as men not on parole (4.1%).
  • And women on parole are nearly three times as likely to be lesbian or bisexual (17.6%) as women not on parole (6.4%).

 

Chart showing 17 percent of women who report being on probation in the past year, and 18 pecent of those on parole in the past year, identify as lesbian or bisexualChart showing about 6 percent of men who report being on probation or parole in the past year identify as gay or bisexual, compared to just under 4 percent of the general male population

 

Trans people in the criminal justice system

There is significantly less data available on trans individuals in the criminal justice system. There is no data on transgender arrest rates, but other research shows police are extremely biased against trans people, especially Black trans people. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, nearly half of trans people reported that they do not feel comfortable seeking help from police. 1 in 5 trans people who have had police contact reported that they have been harassed by police, include 38% of Black trans individuals. Six percent reported that police have physically assaulted them and 2% reported that police have sexually assaulted them. Assault rates were even higher for Black trans people, with 15% reporting physical abuse and 7% of them reporting sexual assault by police.

Chart showing racial disparities in experiences of police harasesment among trans people who have had police interaction. 38 percent of Black trans people who have had police contact report harassment, compared to 18 percent of white trans people

There is also limited data on trans incarceration. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that there are over 3,200 transgender people in U.S. prisons and 1,827 in local jails nationwide. However, this might be an underestimate: In 2020, NBC News found that there were 4,890 transgender people locked up in state prisons alone. And according to data from The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 1 in 6 trans people have been incarcerated at some point, and nearly half (47%) of Black trans people have been incarcerated:

Chart showing that among trans people, Black, American Indian, Latinx, and multiracial people report having ever been to prison or jail at especially high rates. 47 percent of Black trans people have ever been incarcerated, compared to 12 percent of white trans people

Once behind bars, trans people face extremely high rates of harassment and physical and sexual assault, are frequently denied routine healthcare, and are at high risk of being sent to solitary confinement. Black and Pink found that 44% of transgender, nonbinary gender, and Two‐Spirit in their sample were denied access to hormones they requested. And as our previous study found, most states do not have policies ensuring basic protections for trans people behind bars. And most prisons in the U.S. currently house transgender people by their sex assigned at birth or according to genital characteristics, not their gender identity, which only increases their risk of harassment and assault.

 

Conclusion and recommendations

The data consistently shows that LGBTQ people are overrepresented throughout the criminal justice system and that they are subjected to especially harmful conditions behind bars. The Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress have explained how discrimination and stigma – like family rejection, poverty, unsafe schools, and employment discrimination – leads to criminalization. They argue that ending the criminalization of LGBTQ people will require broad social and policy changes, including (but not limited to):

  • Increasing support for LGTBQ youth within families, schools, communities, and other institutions
  • Eliminating discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and other realms
  • Eliminating homelessness among the LGBTQ population
  • Ending the criminalization of sex work
  • Enacting drug policy and sentencing reforms

While the central goal should be keeping LGBTQ people out of prison in the first place, far more needs to be done to ensure their safety behind bars, by preventing harassment and sexual assault, improving systems for addressing assault when it occurs, providing access to appropriate housing, health care, and clothing to incarcerated transgender people, and enacting and enforcing non-discrimination policies for staff.

 

Footnotes

  1. A note about language used in this briefing: We most often use the term LBGTQ to refer to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the criminal justice system, to best match the data sources we used. In a few places, we depart from the LBGTQ acronym to reflect other groups explicitly included in the data source we reference (for instance, in the section about youth in the juvenile justice system, where “questioning” youth are included), or where a group is explicitly excluded (the studies analyzing the National Inmate Survey, for example, do not address people who identify as transgender). Unfortunately, government data on gender and sexuality in the criminal justice system do not allow us to see whether intersex, asexual, gender nonconforming, two spirit people, and other groups within the queer community are also overrepresented in our criminal justice system.

     ↩

  2. Specifically, Irvine & Canfield (2016) “found that 60.1% of girls in the juvenile justice system are heterosexual and gender conforming; 7.8% are heterosexual and gender nonconforming (more masculine presenting or behaving); 22.9% of girls are lesbian, bisexual, or questioning and gender conforming; and 9.2% of girls are lesbian, bisexual, or questioning and gender nonconforming.” (Chart 2, page 249)

     ↩

  3. Future researchers should note that a breakdown of the offenses for which LGBTQ people are disproportionately arrested is a remaining data gap.

     ↩

  4. Gay and bisexual men are not overrepresented in jails, where 3.3% are gay or bisexual men and 2.9% report having had sex with men before arrival at the facility but do not self-identify as gay or bisexual.

     ↩


Thanks to new regulations, the imminent spike in postage prices will fall heavily, and unfairly, on people in prison and jail.

by Stephen Raher, February 20, 2021

The dramatic tale of mail ballots during the November 2020 election had many people thinking about the mail for the first time in years. Now, though, as the election fades into the past, the post office isn’t on most people’s minds as much. But there is a huge group of people who can’t simply substitute the latest online communication or financial service for paper mail: incarcerated people and those who communicate with them.

In a time when consumer advocates warn to avoid filing your taxes on paper, people in prison and jail have no alternative. Want to monitor your credit history to guard against identity theft? It takes a few minutes online; unless you’re in prison, in which case you’ll have to mail a paper form to the credit bureaus and hope that the response makes it through the prison mailroom. Need to apply for a state-issued ID, student financial aid, public assistance, or just about anything else? Most often you’ll be directed to a website, but if you’re incarcerated you’ll need to keep turning over proverbial rocks, searching for a paper-based option.

With this general background in mind, let’s turn to a largely-overlooked change that could spell big trouble for users of the mail, particularly for those with low incomes. Under federal law, postal rates are set under a variety of complicated rules, overseen by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). For years, the cost of a first-class stamp has been governed by an inflation-linked price cap: the USPS could seek permission to raise rates each year, but not beyond the rate of consumer inflation. After years of deliberation, the PRC issued a massive ruling in late November, establishing a new system that most experts warn will result in faster-growing postage rates.

Adding insult to injury: Obviously, any price increase is unwelcome news to people who use the mail. But the rationale underpinning the new price structure is a particularly bitter pill for incarcerated consumers. Setting aside some of the more esoteric parts of the PRC’s ruling, the leading justification for new price hikes is the issue of “mail density.”

Mail density works like this: the USPS is required to deliver to more addresses (or “delivery points,” in postal regulatory lingo) each year. As the overall volume of mail declines and the number of delivery points increases, the USPS’s cost to deliver each piece of mail goes up. Given this well-documented dynamic, the PRC decided that stamp prices should be allowed to increase to compensate for this “decline in mail density.”

So, we’re all going to pay more for stamps because of decreasing density–but what delivery point is more dense than a typical prison, where hundreds or thousands of people receive their mail at one address? From a strictly economic view, the new pricing system is logical: the American postal system is based on a theory of uniform rates, where anyone sending a letter pays the same amount, regardless of the path that the letter travels. Under this thinking, declines in density caused by sprawling new suburban developments are appropriately shared by all mailers, even those in densely populated cities or correctional facilities. But as a matter of basic fairness, something is awry. Incarcerated people are not contributing to the USPS’s declining density problem and they have no ability to mitigate increased postage rates by seeking electronic alternatives. But they stand to be the demographic most disadvantaged by the sharp price hikes likely to come later this year.

What does this mean for prices? The mechanics of the new rate procedure are so complicated as to be laughable. For example, the actual amount that stamp prices will increase due to the new density rate authority is determined by the following formula:

The Postal Service's complicated formular for determining postal rate increases

Not being gifted in math, I can’t give you a good explanation of this formula, but experts who study postal economics predict rapid and steep price increases. And the pandemic is making things worse. As explained in the previous section, the basic point of the complicated formula is to allow for greater price increases the more that mail density declines. What happened during the pandemic? Less mail was sent, and thus density took a nosedive.

As explained by the Save the Post Office blog, when the PRC issued its ruling, tentative calculations suggested that the density formula would probably yield a rate hike of 1.3% in 2021. But when the pandemic-depressed mail volume is plugged into the formula, it results in a potential price hike over three times as large (4.5%).

When other potential rate-drivers are taken into account, USPS could seek a mid-year price hike of around 5.5%. Based on the current first-class rate of 55c for a one-ounce letter, a 5.5% increase would be around 3c, but under the USPS’s ill-advised rounding policy (which we strongly opposed), the increase would be rounded up to the nearest five cents, potentially resulting in a new price of 60c to mail a letter. That’s about equal to the average hourly wage earned by incarcerated people in non-prison-industry certified jobs.

Prices go up as quality goes down. To make matters even worse, prices are going up at the same time that mail quality (i.e., speed of delivery) is getting really bad. For this, we can thank Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a crony of the former president whose legendary conflicts of interest remain a stain on his tenure to this very day.

Unsurprisingly, Postmaster General DeJoy is on a seeming mission to destroy the USPS, recently announcing even greater service cutbacks that threaten to make mail even slower and less reliable than it is today.

What can you do about it? Unlike the criminal justice system, where power and decision-making is spread over hundreds of jurisdictions, postal policy is ultimately controlled by one body: Congress. There are currently moves in Congress to address mismanagement of the USPS, but when debating postal reform measures, lawmakers need to hear the unique burdens faced by incarcerated people.

Currently, there are two ways you can tell Congress to act. You can support efforts to remove Postmaster DeJoy, and you can tell your members of Congress to act immediately to improve the USPS finances without extracting more money from incarcerated people and their families. A general hearing on postal reform measures will take place in the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 24. Committee members should keep the needs of incarcerated mailers in mind while crafting legislative proposals. For starters, this should include broad measures to stabilize the cost of sending first-class letters. More targeted reforms could include exempting incarcerated people from the new density-based rate increases, or (ideally) subsidizing postage for people in prison and jail.


New statewide data from the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness underscore the harms of criminalizing homelessness and the destabilizing effects of incarceration.

by Alexi Jones, February 10, 2021

In December, officials in Seattle drew the ire of activists when they decided to sweep a homeless encampment in Cal Anderson park despite warnings from public health officials. Dozens of people experiencing homelessness were displaced and 24 people were arrested just a week before Christmas. Seattle is not alone. At the same time that cities around the country, including Denver and Reno, continue police sweeps of homeless encampments during the pandemic, researchers in Connecticut have compiled recent data showing that this criminalization of homelessness – together with barriers to housing upon re-entry – has created a revolving door between prisons and homeless shelters.

Research has consistently shown a strong link between incarceration and homelessness. Our 2018 report found that formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. Other national data shows 50,000 people enter shelters directly from correctional facilities per year.1 And homelessness is a major predictor of involvement with the juvenile justice system, which means that for many youth, the cycle of incarceration and homelessness starts early.

To date, there has been no national data on how many people experiencing homelessness have had prior criminal justice involvement. New data from the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness helps fill this gap. The study was also able to parse how many people experienced homelessness before incarceration versus how many experienced homelessness after release – underscoring both the harms of criminalizing homelessness and the destabilizing effects of incarceration. Above all, the findings illustrate the importance of including stable housing in states’ public safety agendas.

 

The study’s main findings

The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) matched data from the 450,000 people who have been admitted to the Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC), the state’s joint prison and jail system, and the 17,226 people who used a shelter in their network between Jan. 2016 and Jan. 2019, finding that half of the people (8,187) who used homeless shelters were formerly incarcerated. Moreover, they found that 1 in 5 people who used homeless shelters had been released from prison in the past three years. The CCEH network includes 88% of all emergency shelters in the state.

Chart showing that white people are underrepresented, and Black people are overrepresented, among those who have experienced both homelessness and incarceration in Connecticut

The study found stark racial disparities among the population of formerly incarcerated people using homeless shelters. Of the 8,187 formerly incarcerated people experiencing homelessness, 35% were Black, compared to just 10% of the general population in Connecticut.2 This reflects the fact that Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by both incarceration and homelessness, and is in line with our national finding that Black formerly incarcerated people are significantly more likely to experience homelessness than white formerly incarcerated people.

 

The criminalization of homelessness

To get a better picture of those with relatively recent experience with both homelessness and incarceration, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness zeroed in on people who both used homeless shelters in their network and who were released from the Department of Corrections in the past three years (Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2019). They found most formerly incarcerated people (69%) in the sample were homeless before their incarceration. The data also indicates that they were typically incarcerated for relatively minor offenses: 80% of those sentenced were released at the end of their sentence (as opposed to going to a halfway house or to parole supervision), which suggests many served shorter sentences, which in turn are indicative of lower-level offenses. And among those who were held pretrial, 75% were released by the court without bond, also suggesting relatively minor offenses.3

Small pie chart showing that 69% of people who experienced both homelessness and incarceration in Connecticut were homeless prior to incarceration, and 31% became homeless after incarceration These findings reflect the pervasive criminalization of homelessness in Connecticut. As researchers at Yale Law School explain, “Laws in cities throughout Connecticut prohibit a person without a bed from sleeping on a park bench, ban someone without a place to be during the day from standing in a public plaza, and restrict the ability of a person without access to food to ask for money to buy something to eat.” This puts people experiencing homelessness at high risk for arrest and incarceration, even though these “offenses” pose no threat to public safety. It’s both inhumane and counterproductive: Arresting and incarcerating people experiencing homelessness makes it harder for them to secure housing, jobs, and public assistance by saddling them with a criminal record and fines and fees that are impossible for them to pay. It only serves to fuel the revolving door between prisons and homeless shelters.

 

Barriers to successful re-entry

However, over a quarter (28%) of people who had both used the networks’ homeless shelters and been released from the Department of Corrections from Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2019 reported becoming homeless only after their last release from the Department of Corrections. This finding underscores how destabilizing and counterproductive incarceration is, and how little support incarcerated people have once released. Upon incarceration, most people lose their jobs and housing, and it is extremely difficult for people to regain their footing upon release. The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is nearly five times higher than the unemployment rate for the general population in the U.S. Formerly incarcerated people face widespread discrimination in both unemployment and housing, making it extremely difficult to succeed post-release.

Finally, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness conducted an in-depth investigation of formerly incarcerated people experiencing homelessness in the city of New Haven, which offers an even more detailed analysis. Most notably, over half (54%) of formerly incarcerated homeless people in New Haven have been admitted to prison on 6 or more occasions, further illustrating the fruitlessness of using incarceration – or criminal legal responses more broadly – to address people’s underlying needs or to deal with the problem of homelessness. Rather than “rehabilitating” people, incarceration simply makes it harder for people to succeed upon release. Instead of investing in policing and incarcerating people experiencing homelessness, cities and states should instead invest in stable housing, healthcare, and other social services that address people’s unmet needs.

 

Closing the “revolving door”

The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness’ data show clearly that responding to homelessness with policing and incarceration is not just immoral, but also ineffective. To “close the revolving door,” CCEH is working with the Connecticut Department of Corrections to launch the DOC’s Re-entry Housing Assistance Program,4 locating housing options before release for individuals they identify as at-risk of becoming homeless. For cases where the DOC can’t find a housing alternative, CCEH’s network of service providers is available to create and implement housing plans, again starting before release.

Other states and cities can follow Connecticut’s lead and stop the revolving door between homelessness and incarceration by creating clear-cut systems to help recently-released individuals find homes, “banning the box” on housing applications to prevent discrimination against people with criminal records, ending the criminalization of homelessness, and expanding social services for the homeless, focusing on “Housing First.”

 

Footnotes

  1. This figure does not include people experiencing homelessness who don’t use shelters or people who enter shelters after a period of instability following incarceration.

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  2. Black people make up 41% of the incarcerated population in Connecticut.

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  3. A unique strength of the data set is that the Connecticut Department of Corrections has a joint prison and jail system, so the data set captures even short periods of incarceration for minor offenses that normally wouldn’t be captured in prison admissions data. In most states, people detained pretrial or serving short sentences (commonly of under 1 year) are held in county or municipal jails, while those serving longer sentences are held in state prisons.

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  4. Among its 2021 legislative priorities, the Connnecticut Coalition to End Homelessness supports the creation of a “reentry housing assistance” line item within the DOC budget and the appropriation of at least $2 million per year to this line item.

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Several studies show that formerly incarcerated people - and the children of currently incarcerated people - are at especially high risk of experiencing food insecurity.

by Jenny Landon and Alexi Jones, February 10, 2021

Small chart showing that while about 10 percent of the general population experiences food insecurity, nearly 20 percent of formerly incarcerated people do. The COVID-19 pandemic – and the government’s insufficient response in providing economic relief – has led to an enormous increase in food insecurity in this country. At least 54 million people are facing experiencing food insecurity (meaning they don’t have access to healthy food), and past research suggests that formerly incarcerated people, and the children of currently incarcerated people, are at especially high risk. This briefing summarizes and explains this research.

Food insecurity is an often-overlooked consequence of incarceration, and it can’t be separated from the more well-known problems of homelessness and unemployment. While the estimates vary somewhat, researchers consistently find that food insecurity is more common among formerly incarcerated people — and families with an incarcerated parent — than among the general population:

  • In a 2013 survey of recently released individuals in three states, 91% of respondents reported food insecurity, and 37% reported not having eaten for an entire day because they could not afford food.
  • A 2019 study found that 20% of formerly incarcerated people report suffering from food insecurity — double that of the general population — with even higher rates among formerly incarcerated women and Black individuals.
  • Young children who live with their father before his incarceration are three times as likely to experience food insecurity, according to a study focused on the impact of paternal incarceration.
  • Finally, a 2012 study found that the incarceration of either parent increases the likelihood of food insecurity for adults and households with children by up to 15 percentage points.

These last two studies offer further, direct evidence of how incarceration punishes entire families and communities, not just people who are locked up. Most incarcerated people are parents; their absence while incarcerated – and the barriers they face when they come home – have ramifications for their entire families, particularly children. The potentially severe and lifelong consequences of experiencing food insecurity in childhood are among the many injustices visited upon the families and communities most impacted by mass incarceration.

The high levels of food insecurity among formerly incarcerated people also underscores the difficulty of reentry, and the lasting, life-threatening effects of incarceration. Apart from the obvious policy choice of incarcerating fewer people, states and counties must provide more robust support for recently released people. States that still limit access to food programs like SNAP (or food stamps) because of former convictions must immediately abandon this discriminatory practice, and invest in infrastructure so that formerly incarcerated people and food-insecure families have access to transportation, housing, and employment opportunities.









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