York County Prison may reduce inmates' phone call costs

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

The cost for inmates to make phone calls at York County Prison would decrease under a proposed new contract with Global Tel Link, the company that provides tablet and phone services to the prison, officials said Wednesday.

Under the five-year contract, inmates would be charged 16 cents per minute, down from the current 19 cents per minute, for in-state and out-of-state phone calls.

GTL would also provide the prison with a new jail management system at no cost to the county, Warden Clair Doll said.

More:Special report: York County Prison maintained by 'phone tax' on prisoners' families

More:County negotiates decrease for prison phone costs while adding tablets for inmates

The York County Prison Board voted Wednesday to accept the contract and send it to the York County Board of Commissioners for final approval.

The prison board looked at jail management systems from Montgomery Technology Inc., JailTracker and a model used by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania but ultimately went with GTL, Doll said.

"In the end, GTL provides the most services," he said.

York County Prison in Springettsbury Township Monday, August, 24, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

The new jail management system would allow the prison administration to more efficiently pull reports and analysis about the inmate population, Doll said.

For example, if a Catholic priest came to the prison looking to minister to inmates and were to ask for a list of all inmates who identify as Catholic, having an integrated management system would allow prison officials to pull that list up quickly, as opposed to manually sorting through records.

The system also could be used to quickly identify vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or those with health conditions, to better respond to their needs, Doll said.

The county would have access to a management system designed for youth detention centers, as well, he said.

'Phone tax': York County Prison came under fire in 2017 for charging inmates 25 cents per minute on phone calls through GTL's phone service and collecting a commission of 12 cents per minute on in-state calls, netting an annual commission of about $900,000.

The prison board renegotiated that contract with GTL after a report published in The York Dispatch and reduced the cost of in-state phone calls to 19 cents per minute while still collecting the 12-cent commission. The cost for out-of-state phone calls remained at 25 cents per minute at that time, with no commission for the county.

Under the proposed new contract, in-state and out-of-state calls would cost the same amount, at 16 cents per minute, and the county would still collect a 12-cent commission on calls made within Pennsylvania, said county administrator Mark Derr.

The York Dispatch intends to submit a Right to Know request for a copy of the contract once it has been signed and is considered a public document.