Sunday, June 10, 2018

US sheriff's racketeering and anti-competitive contracts


In Victoria, Australia people should be aware that the so called sheriff has been acting unlawfully on allegedly issued warrants arising from the Infringements Court since 2006 causing harm and financial damage to many motorists.

The Victorian sheriff and the 'deputies' were aware that the warrants were not issued in accordance to the law (i.e. Form 1 within the Schedule in the Infringements (Reporting and Prescribed Details and Forms) Regulations 2006) , yet they chose to act on them confiscating stealing people's possessions through the use of deception, extortion, force and fear.

So, what are the cheeky sheriffs up to across the pacific in a place under administration called the United States of America?

This is what techdirt has to say on the topic on the 4th of June 2018, under the headline:


Sheriffs Are Raking In Millions In Prison Phone Fees And Some Really Don't Want To Talk About It 
from the cashing-in-on-people-with-nowhere-else-to-go dept

MuckRock is currently conducting a public records survey of prison telephone contracts. What it has secured so far will shock you, but only if you haven't been paying attention. There's nothing like a captive audience, and prisoners are the most captive of all. There's one way out via telephone and its routed through mercenary companies and the law enforcement agencies that love them. 

Why so much law enforcement love for telcos specializing in prison phones? Because money buys a lot of love.
A recently-released contract for prison phone services in Bartow County, Georgia shows that the County receives a commission of 77% from its current provider of inmate communications, ICSolutions.
And it's not 77% of some small amount. In this agreement, phones calls are $0.16/minute and billing for calls involves fees of $3-6 for payment processing. The contract is so profitable for both ICS and the sheriff's department that ICS installs the system for free and provides the county with $225,000 in grants in exchange for an auto-renewing contract that helps lock out competitors. In addition, the county collects 50% of video visitation and "inmate tablet usage" fees. 

This may be at the low end of prison phone contracts, as far as commissions go. Other records obtained by MuckRock show government agencies angling for higher percentages and larger payouts. The Bristol County Sheriff's Office sent out a handful of proposals with demands for anywhere from 58-72% of call revenue. Depending on contractor, the department would make $2-4 per call, along with a cut of other communications services provided by contractors. The end result is more than $2 million a year flowing directly from prisoners (and their families) into county coffers. Unsurprisingly, this sheriff's department is being sued for its high-cost prison phone system. 

Also unsurprising is the fact those profiting from these agreements are reluctant to talk about them. Beryl Lipton reports one sheriff's department is seeking to withhold documents by deploying a dubious public records exemption.
According to the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department in Wyoming, a request for its contract with inmate phone service provider Inmate Calling Solutions (ICSolutions) cannot be made public because the agreement itself is consider a “trade secret.”
The letter from the county attorney's office claims the agreement between the sheriff and ICS prevents the documents from being released. Supposedly, the wording says the entire agreement is "confidential" or a "trade secret" (the attorney's letter doesn't specify which). Even if true, private companies can't do business with government entities and expect all of their documentation to remain out of the public eye. If the wording is similar in other ICS contracts, it hasn't stopped multiple government agencies from turning over copies of their contracts with the company to records requesters. This appears to be a case of someone at the county level finding a loophole to keep requesters from finding out just how much the local sheriff is making on prison phone calls. 


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