Inmate Telephone System History

Learn about the history of Inmate Telephone Systems

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Historical Background of Inmate Telephone Systems

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has laid down the conditions for use of telephones for Inmate.

The BOP Philosophy on Inmate Use of Telephones

The access to telephone allows the inmates to keep in touch with the family & society. This allows them to blend into the society after their release. The philosophy of BOP in this regard is:

" The Bureau of Prisons extends telephone privileges to inmates as part of its overall correctional management. Telephone privileges are a supplemental means of maintaining community and family ties that will contribute to an inmate's personal development."

History of Inmate Access to Telephones

The inmates from the beginning had limited privilege reading the use of telephone. Till early 1970 the inmates were allowed to make one collect call every three months. The procedure required them to make a written request & the staff telephones were used to make a call once the written approval was granted. This changed with issuance of new telephone use directive by BOP in 1973 with the objective of "permit constructive, wholesome community contact." The directive required that inmate may be allowed to make at last one telephone call every three months. To take care of security within the prison the prison authorities were required to lay down procedures to monitor the inmate telephone calls.

The payphone systems were installed in many facilities in mid 1970's to expand inmate access to telephones. This lessened the burden of staff arising out of telephone calls as inmate were able to make collect call themselves using the payphone installed. This facility was available in 31 of BOP's 38 institutions by 1976. There was no restriction on number of calls that an inmate can make. The correctional officers at the institution were instructed to listen to few sample calls if the time permitted. At some locations a primitive equipment was used for recording calls if found necessary.

The unlimited use of payphone telephone by inmates led to abuse of the telephone system by inmates. Inmates in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City reportedly made $100,000 in fraudulent calls in 1976. Similar frauds were found at other locations. The inmate also found to placing threatening calls to judges and other government officials making it a serious issue. In order to control the abuse the facilities started installing device that allowed BOP personnel to listen to calls as they were made. These devices were installed by 50% of the institutions by 1982.

In 1983 the two attempts for breaking the prison by making use of telephone were detected and this led to formation of a task force to evaluate the inmate telephone program. The task force commissioned for this by BOP recommended a "four-pronged strategy" to prevent inmate telephone abuse by limiting the number of telephone, restrictions on their use and increased monitoring. However it as not accepted due to various reasons & in 1984 more recommendations were made by a group of wardens. It was decided to put call monitoring equipment in 1984 & systems were installed in few facilities on pilot basis. In 1986 it was decide to install a computer based "Automated Intelligence Management System" (AIMS) in all BOP prison facilities.

The Inmate Telephone System (ITS) was developed in 1988 for use in federal prisons and allowed significantly limiting and controlling inmate calls.

Don't miss our guide to making Inmate Phone Calls




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