Tipper’s Telecommunications Transparency Bill Passes Committee

The House Judiciary Committee today unanimously passed Representative Kerry Tipper’s bill on telecommunications data in jails. The bill would require telecommunication providers who operate in jails to provide data related to the calls made by inmates in jail on a quarterly basis.

“Affordable phone calls lower recidivism and massively improve the wellbeing of both incarcerated individuals and their families on the outside,” said Rep. Tipper, D-Lakewood. “This bill would bring much-needed transparency to a murky system and give us a better idea of where profits are going. I’m proud that the committee approved the measure today and I’ll keep working to make it a reality.”

In-state long distance or local calls in Colorado’s correctional facilities can cost up to $0.99 per minute depending on the facility– and inmates’ loved ones shoulder the expenses. At 50 percent, Colorado’s recidivism rate is 10 percent higher than the national rate.  A November 2011 study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections found that regular communication with a loved one can reduce the risk of felony reconviction by 13 percent and technical violations by 25 percent. 

Some government agencies, including counties and cities, receive a commission from telecommunication service providers. The commissions drive up the cost of jail phone calls, making it difficult for inmates to stay in touch with loved ones. In a 2013 contract between the city of Denver and Securus Technologies, the telecommunication corporation agreed to pay the city 80 percent commission on all debit calls within the system.

HB20-1267  would require telecommunications providers to provide a copy of the existing contract between the provider and the jail that they service to the public utilities commission. Additionally, telecommunications providers must also provide the rates for in and out-of-state phone calls as well as the fees that are charged to the inmate making phone calls. The commission is required to publish all of this data and report on its website in a format accessible by the public.