Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/03/bt_prison_phone_charges/

BT cuts phone charges for prisoners

Scottish porridge eaters pay more

By John Oates

Posted in Broadband, 3rd April 2009 13:33 GMT

Payphone charges for prisoners in England and Wales have been cut after long-running campaigns by the Prison Reform Trust and the National Consumer Council.

The Trust took its complaints to Ofcom last year. The Home Office said at the time it was disappointed at the action and that cutting costs would require a subsidy.

Calls to landlines from English and Welsh prisons are now a penny cheaper at 10p per minute. Mobile weekday rates see the biggest cut from 63p per minute to 37.5p per minute. Evening and weekend mobile stay the same at 37.5p and 19.5p.

The minimum charge for prison payphones is 10p rather than 40p for normal payphones. Most prison calls are shorter than those from their unincarcerated counterparts.

Juliet Lyon, director of Prison Reform Trust, said:

The high cost of prison phone calls has made family contact much harder, even though family support is a lifeline for some prisoners and those who do keep in touch are less likely to reoffend.

The Prison Reform Trust is pleased that BT has now started to reduce the prohibitively high cost of prison phone calls both to landlines and to mobiles in particular. We expect costs to fall further, bringing them in line with public payphones, after the forthcoming competitive tendering process for the prison payphone contract.

Research suggests that prisoners are six times less likely to reoffend if they have a supportive family network to return to when they come out, and that almost half of people in prison lose contact with their families during their sentence.

A spokesman for BT said: "Prison payphones are not really comparable to normal payphones because of the security and monitoring required." He said the majority of calls from prison phones are cheaper on average than if made at a public payphone.

A spokeswoman for Siemens said: "We are still in active dialogue with the Scottish Prison Service." ®