Letter: Securus contract good for inmates, county
To the editor:
A recent letter to the editor alleges that the Berkshire County sheriff's office is painting too rosy a picture of our new contract with Securus Technologies, but the reality is that the details of our new contract with Securus Technologies should make our entire county proud.
We recently negotiated a new agreement that will better serve incarcerated individuals and their families. The average rate for a 15-minute phone call out of our facility is now $3.15 — a significant price reduction — with the only exception being for certain interstate and international calls. This brings us in line with new state guidance and will help ease the financial burden placed on families.
To achieve these reductions, we worked with Securus to eliminate commissions. Previously 100 percent of funds generated from phone calls went entirely back into the inmate commissary account. These funds helped support direct services to inmates such as the "Big Head Book" program for literacy and STEM education programs. We eliminated commissions because we recognize the importance of affordable and accessible communication options, as does Securus.
Furthermore, we are adding a new community-based tablet program that will be available to incarcerated individuals for $5/month. This tablet program will replace the previous $20/month offering. With the new MakeMine tablets, incarcerated individuals can access no-cost educational programs and reentry resources such as self-help and life skills videos. Incarcerated individuals will also be able to send digital messages to loved ones and make phone calls using the handheld devices, and access entertainment products. We are proud to offer these services always but especially during a public health emergency when we've been forced to limit in-person visitation.
We are proud to work with Securus Technologies, which is a leader in providing incarcerated individuals with communications tools across America. Their technology allows us to provide a high-quality service while also maintaining a safe and secure platform. It was Securus that first offered all incarcerated individuals free phone calls during the pandemic, bearing the entire expense because they realized it was the right thing to do. That is exactly the sort of partner we want.
The changes we have negotiated into our new contract will make these vital services more affordable and accessible for individuals incarcerated at our facility. It is an outcome that makes our community stronger.
The writer is sheriff of Berkshire County.
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