Harris County Moving Towards Free Phone Calls


Free Jail Phone Calls Are Possible 
Securus Technologies is one of approximately five large firms providing telephone, video, and emailing services to our jails and prisons across the country. As most of us know, it is extremely important for inmates and their loved ones to be able to communicate with one another; however, such communications are made extremely costly by these firms making access to communication for impoverished inmates and their family members nearly impossible.

Under Securus’s current contract with Harris County, to initiate a phone call it would cost $5.20 for the first minute, and then approximate .30 cents a minute for each additional minute. These rates are astronomical! Last year one of our partners and a fierce champion of criminal justice reform, Attorney Drew Willey, approached the commissioners about making phone calls free for inmates. By sharing with them research, working with their staff, and offering examples of where it has been done elsewhere, he was able to convince commissioner Rodney Ellis to place an item on the court agenda for the renegotiation of the county’s contract with Securus.

On Tuesday, August 13, 2019, the commissioners and county judge approved to renegotiate the contract with Securus that calls for the elimination of all surcharges and that phone calls to be reduced to .06 cent per minute within the next 6 months. Additionally, the commissioners court confirmed that they would rebid the Securus contract once the current contract ends in search of a firm that is willing to offer free phone calls.

This is a huge win for criminal justice reform because we understand that it is not a crime to be poor, yet those who are poor are often penalized because of it. We appreciate Attorney Willey, Commissioner Ellis, and everyone else who are determined to bring equity to our justice system.