Texas prisoners have made and received more than 4.7 million telephone calls and sent and received 1.8 million e-mails since 2009, when the state became the last in the nation to allow inmates phone and e-mail access, reports the Texas Tribune. The calls and messages have generated about $6 million in revenue for the state, far less than the tens of millions of dollars some lawmakers had hoped to realize. Inmates' family members say the state could make much more money and further decrease the smuggling of cell phones into prisons with just a couple of changes to the phone policy. They point out that prisoners can only make calls to and receive calls from land line phones, not cell phones, which is impractical today.
The lawmaker whose bill originally created the phone and e-mail program says the state needs to re-evaluate the operation. State Sen Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat, introduced the 2007 bill that required state authorities to find a company to install pay phones that inmates could use to keep in touch with family and others who form support systems for them outside prison walls. Before that, inmates could make only one five-minute phone call every three months. Van de Putte says she wrote the bill after watching a family member wait at her phone for weeks at a time, refusing to leave the house and bathing in the middle of the night, in case her loved one called from prison.