SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. – Spokane County Detention Services (SCDS) is preparing to finalize the finishing touches on a major project to transition the Inmate Telephone System from the vendor Global Tel Link (GTL) to Securus Technologies (Securus).
The project was broken up into multiple phases including the replacement of telephone hardware and the transition of telephone company service, adding of video visitation units, and the supplying of tablets to inmates.
After a 10-year contract with GTL for inmate telephone services, in 2019, Spokane County sent out a Request for Proposal (RFP), seeking expanded service offerings and the ability to lower telephone call rates for inmates. The RFP left the opportunity open for perspective vendors to propose additional features that could be included in the telephone system package. The selection team chose to contract with Securus who offered a significant reduction in telephone call rates, along with video visitation terminals, and corrections grade inmate tablets. In addition, the infrastructure and hardware for these upgrades were installed free of charge to Spokane County. In the contract with Spokane County, Securus agreed to reduce the call rate to $0.084 per minute for domestic calls from an average rate of $0.26 per minute with GTL.
The new video visitation terminals were installed in every housing module of both the downtown Jail and Geiger Correctional Center. On these terminals, thirty-minute video visits can be scheduled between 24 hours and two weeks in advance for $5.00 per 30-minute session. From the comfort of home, remote visitors can join the session from any computer, laptop, cell phone, or tablet with an internet connection. Once the public lobby of the Spokane County Jail reopens from the restrictions put into place because of COVID-19, visitors will be able to schedule free video visits by joining the session on one of six video terminals in the lobby.
The new Corrections grade JP6 tablets run on a secure wireless network, installed and maintained by Securus, which operates on a closed infrastructure with proprietary software that takes specific measures to prevent misuse and detect illicit behavior. Tablets are distributed for approximately 12 hours per day and are returned in the evening to charge overnight and receive security updates.
The tablets offer additional communications options, religious materials, self-help and educational opportunities, a law library, FM radio tuner, basic games, and over 50,000 free books. Over 1,000 materials related to religion, including over 40 Holy books are included in the list of free books. The tablets do not allow inmates to access the public internet, and all available applications are inmate content appropriate. Additional content including premium games, music purchases, and video rentals including TV shows and movies are available with a premium tablet subscription. Premium content is limited to broadcast television/PG-13 rating.
A telephone application, included on each tablet at no additional cost, greatly increases communication opportunities for inmates. Calls can be made from within the cell without having to wait for one of a handful of phones mounted to the wall during limited times. Telephone call volume has increased from approximately 1.6 million minutes in 2019 to over 5 million minutes during the first full year with Securus.
In the future, SCDS and Securus would like to add eMessaging services that allow inmates to communicate with their family and friends in a text message like format. Messages can include pre-prepared greeting ‘cards’, and family and friends will be able to attach photos and up to a 30 second video.
The contract between Spokane County and Securus includes a commission on phone call minutes, video visits, and premium tablet content purchases. All commissions received from Securus go directly into the inmate welfare fund and offset a portion of annual inmate welfare fund expenditures. The fund pays for programs including the law library, methadone program, commissary, inmate counseling, GED and other education programs, as well as indigent items and admission kits, bus passes, and postage.