An Indiana appeals court has ordered a hearing in a case alleging exorbitant fees on collect phone calls placed by inmates in Indianapolis’s Marion County Jail. The Indianapolis Star says the class-action suit was dismissed in 2000 by a lower court judge. Inmate phone fees have provoked controversies at prisons around the nation.
The lawsuit charges that former Marion County Sheriff Jack Cottey signed a contract with Ameritech, now SBC, that set the price of a 30-minute call from the jail at $4.75; inmates are allowed to make only collect calls.
In 2002, the Sheriff’s Department received $2.1 million in collect call revenues; most goes toward jail improvements. The contract also allowed Cottey a one-time $262,000 signing bonus.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Lawrence M. Ruben called the payments kickbacks. “They are taking inordinate sums of money from the people who pay the phone bills,” he said. “The monetary amount we seek will be based on the number of collect phone calls that were made. It could be in the tens of millions.”
The Sheriff’s Department’s current contract with SBC expires in 2005.