Tempers flare over jailhouse phone rates at Public Service Commi - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Tempers flare over jailhouse phone rates at Public Service Commission meeting in Bossier City

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(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)

Hold the phone! Tempers flare over jailhouse phone rates at the Louisiana Public Service Commission meeting today.

This was their first ever meeting in Bossier City, but it was far from the goup's first time discussing the issue.

From anger, to frustration, to downright exhaustion, commissioners didn't hold back, and neither did the public.

"We cannot afford to allow this phone company to continue to gouge people because they're in jail!" demanded Lloyd Thompson, President of the Shreveport Chapter of the NAACP, as he stood before the commission.

The issue taking center stage is Commissioner Foster Campbell's push to reduce the rates that prisoners and their families pay to talk on the phone, saying the rates have gone up illegally.

RELATED STORY: Costly jailhouse calls, PSC and local phone company head to court over fees

But Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator bit back, telling the PSC that reducing the rates cuts into his budget, which could affect the safety of citizens.

Victims' rights advocate group Crimefighters also made the trip to this end of the state to argue that this reduction has a trickle-down effect, meaning less money from phone rates will compromise law enforcement's ability to effectively monitor conversations and intercept crimes.

But Campbell says greed is at the heart of the issue.

"We need to stop the contraband being sent into the prisons and we do that with aggressive phone monitoring and if he's going to reduce the rates by 25 or 30 percent, whatever he figures is the final analysis, and that's his words, not mine, then I'm here to oppose him 100%," says Irv Magri, Founder of Crimefighters.

"This is worse than any payday loan scheme that's ever happened. It is wrong, it's a well-kept secret that nobody knew about and now that we've exposed it, everybody's upset," Campbell maintains.

"They're taking their foot and putting it on the back of these people's heads and making sure they strike every drop of blood out of them they can and it's absolutely wrong," he says.

At one point during the heated meeting, Campbell and Prator even volleyed back and forth about the types of vehicles they drive as public officials, presumably to make a point about this cutting into Prator's stretched budget.

City Telecoin, of Bossier City, was ordered to reduce their rates in December and comply with new rules set by the PSC, but the company failed to do so and was cited.

Those rules cut rates by 25% for inmate calls made to family members, clergy, counsel, and certain government agencies.

Securus Technologies, of Dallas, was also cited for the same violations.

Both companies are now required to appear before an adminstrative law judge in Baton Rouge to provide information about why they should not be found in violation of the rules.

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