Brief - The Hustle

Soon, the lucrative prison-phone market could be cornered by 2 companies 

Written by Wes Schlagenhauf | Jun 30, 2020 8:51:00 AM

Great news: The New York City Council recently passed a bill that will give inmates free domestic phone calls — a huge win for prisoners and their families struggling to deal with the added expenses of maintaining contact with their loved ones in the clink.

Bad news: Quartz reports that private prison phone giant, Securus Technologies (the official phone service of Rikers Island), wants to buy a smaller competitor, ICSolutions, which would leave the prison-telecom industry with only 2 main providers left: Securus and its competitor, Global Tel Link.

Why is that bad?

The niche prison phone industry is driven by private providers and has long been criticized for its exorbitant and exploitative prices, reaching as much as $25 for a 15-minute call.

What’s worse is, the kickback authorities get from the profits made for a reported $1.2B industry in 2015. 

According to prison rights advocates and families of inmates, “duopolizing” the market would give facilities less choice, while granting the 2 companies more leverage in contracts.

Have no fear, petitioners are here

The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) has filed a petition against the Securus-ICSolutions deal, finding that, if it goes through, the market share of Securus and GTL would be between 73% and 84%.

Which, of course, is all the more reason for Securus to file an objection to the petition with the SEC, saying their market share assessment was “unreliable and misleading.”

Now, it’s on to the SEC for sentencing.