Bergen County to Enter New Jail Phone Contract with Exorbitant Rates

New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees

For Immediate Release

June 26, 2015
Rebecca Hufstader, New York University School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic
Karina Wilkinson, New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees*, [email protected]

    Bergen County to Enter New Jail Phone Contract with Exorbitant Rates

Hackensack, NJ – Bergen County has called for bids on a new phone contract that will increase the county’s commission from 60% to 65% of the revenue generated from calls made by people incarcerated in the jail. The new contract will set a flat rate of 21 cents per minute for domestic calling and 50 cents per minute for international calling, with a $5.95 “prepaid deposit fee.”

Last year, the state of New Jersey’s Department of Corrections eliminated the 41% commission. Recently, they entered into a new contract with Global Tel*Link that will reduce prison and jail phone rates to among the lowest in the nation, approximately 4.5 cents per minute by August. Counties in New Jersey will have the option of contracting for jail calling service through the state contract at the same rate as the state-run facilities.

“At a time when the state of New Jersey has recognized that it is inappropriate to use correctional facility phone contracts to generate revenue, it is disturbing to see Bergen County increasing its commission to 65% and continuing to charge much higher rates than the state,” said Karina Wilkinson, a member of New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees. “We encourage the county to join the state contract and stop profiting off of those who can least afford it.”

Correctional facilities across the country have had to make adjustments following the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Order capping interstate phone rates to 21 cents per minute for debit calls that went into effect February, 2014. The FCC is now looking to rein in the cost of calls within states, which make up the vast majority of calls.

Bergen County houses up to 194 people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement New York Field Office’s custody who need to make international calls to prepare their cases in immigration court.

“For too long, excessive phone rates have limited the ability of immigrant detainees housed in New Jersey jails to communicate with their families and fight their cases,” said Rebecca Hufstader, a recent graduate of NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic. “Most detained immigrants do not have attorneys, so they rely on phone calls to gather critical evidence.”

The Bergen County Request for Proposals is attached. Initial correspondence from Inmate Calling Service providers was due yesterday at 3pm and final bids are due July 21st.

See the new New Jersey state contract price list, here.

See Bergen County’s Request for Proposals here.

*NJ Advocates for Immigrant Detainees is a statewide coalition that advocates for immigrants in detention, educating the public, and organizing to eliminate detention. For information on NJAID’s campaign, go to:


Senate Committee Approves Bill to Reduce Prison and Jail Phone Rates

Alix Nguefack from New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees and Scott Welfel from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice testified at today’s Senate Law & Public Safety Committee hearing on Senator Turner’s (LD-15) bill to reduce prison and jail phone rates, S.1771. As amended it would eliminate kick backs to the state and counties (though the state has voluntarily ended its 41% commission as of Feb 2014). The counties continue to rake in 50% to 70% in commissions on the back of incarcerated people including immigrant detainees.

It was voted out of committee to the Senate floor.

Senator Turner’s press release here.

Senator Turner

Senate Hearing in Trenton Thursday on Phone Rates Bill

The Senate Law & Public Safety Committee will be hearing a bill on reducing phone rates in NJ prisons and jails on Thursday at 10:30am. The bill, S.1771, introduced by Senator Turner (LD-15) will likely be amended to reflect the new state contract that will lower state prison phone rates to 4.4 cents by August 25th, and hopefully address the remaining problems with the exorbitant rates and commissions being charged in the county jails. The location is: Committee Room 10, 3rd Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ. Join us to help encourage the committee to move a strong bill to the Senate floor!