St. Louis Area Jail Phone Rates & Commissions

If you think your cell phone bill is high, be thankful you aren’t trying to keep in contact with someone in jail or prison. If you’ve placed, or received, a phone call involving someone incarcerated you are familiar with the exorbitant fees involved. Individuals who are incarcerated locally face rates as high as $214 a month to stay in touch with loved ones over the phone one hour per week. Prison and jail facilities often outsource their phone systems to private companies who charge rates as high as 73 cents a minute. These call rates are on top of service fees and other charges that can easily add nearly 40% to the cost of a single call.

The contracts are built in a way that allow for facilities to make extra commissions on everything from the phone calls to secure emails, voicemails, and video chats. These add-on rates usually make-up half of the cost of a call, and they offer an attractive and sizeable revenue stream for the often cash-strapped departments. Without these commissions, rates as low as five cents per minute are possible with no commission markup. This is case for Missouri State Department of Corrections Institutions.

In 2013, the FCC overhauled one source of these excessive fees by capping interstate call rates at 21 cents a minute. On October 22, 2015, the FCC plans to overhaul the rates for nearly every other call type and limit the fees service providers can tack on to the cost of a phone call.

In the St. Louis area, there are a wide range of rates, commission payments, and additional fees that incarcerated individuals (and more often families) face when paying the phone bill.

Jefferson County has the highest fees of the facilities surveyed. At 66 cents per minute for a local call, an inmate or family member could expect to pay over $200 to keep in contact. Securus, the phone system contractor, charges a minimum of $7.95 every time money is added to a prepaid account, and it limits the amount you can process at $25 each transaction. Say you wanted to load $100 into a prepaid account account: That means you would have to pay $7.95 x 4 in processing fees totaling $131.80 just to load the account due to the $25 per transaction limit. 

Research has shown that contact between inmates, their families, and loved ones during incarceration reduces recidivism.

“These reforms will help inmates and their families stay in touch by making calling more affordable, and benefit society as a whole by helping inmates transition more smoothly back into society upon their release,” the FCC wrote in their announcement of the pending vote.

One area the proposed FCC change does not address is video chat calls, which can run as high as $15.95 per 30-minute session. Area facilities have said they are considering installing inmate video chat systems. In July, Jefferson County installed their own video chat. After installing the video system, Jefferson County also eliminated face-to-face visits and require visitors to use video monitors to chat with individuals in jail.

More on Jefferson County’s switch to video visitations. 

The proposed rates will go into effect as early as January 20, 2016.

St. Louis Jail Phone Rates and Commissions

Data sources: Rates, contracts, and revenue statements were obtained through open records requests and documents disclosed online by the Missouri Department of Corrections, St. Louis County Justice Center, St. Louis City Justice Center, and Jefferson County Jail.
Jefferson County:
St. Louis County
St. Louis City:
Missouri Department of Corrections:

Review: 9 first impressions switching from Tweetdeck to Hootsuite for Android


Recently, for various reasons, I started two additional twitter accounts besides my own, one professional and another a parody of sorts among friends. I’m a heavy user of Tweetdeck (TD), both on my Mac and my Droid, but TD doesn’t handle multiple accounts very well other than personal ones. I’m giving Hootsuite a try this week and after two days, it isn’t doing a good job of winning me over.

Some observations and comparisons to TD:

1. No background processes. If you want to attach a photo with that tweet you’re stuck waiting until that photo uploads before going back to check your timeline or do anything else within Hootsuite. My phone service is through US Cellular. Much to my dismay, they have yet to launch 3G service in St. Louis and surrounding areas. That photo is going to take five or more minutes if I’m moving around. Not okay for my twitter use.

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Social media worst practices: Capitalizing on a storm, the @dotjenna story.

Inspired by @Rizzotees’ blog post and after watching the exchanges unfold on my timeline, this was too good (read: terrible) to pass up as a display of how to not conduct yourself on twitter or in general.

Embedded below is my Storify on the subject.

Continue reading “Social media worst practices: Capitalizing on a storm, the @dotjenna story.”

Schnucks tries and fails using QR codes in TV ads

I’m all for innovative QR code use. I include one on my business card to link to a page here on my site. Whenever I see one in public I’ll usually take the time to scan it just to see how companies or individuals are using them. Tonight while fast forwarding through commercials during The Office I saw a QR code fly by in a Schnucks ad. I made the rare move of actually watching the ad, pausing it at the end to try to scan the QR code.

Only one problem, I couldn’t scan it.

Even though I knew it was coming after fast forwarding through it the first time around, it was only on the screen for a mere five seconds. Continue reading “Schnucks tries and fails using QR codes in TV ads”

My first Storify: A Study Into How News Orgs Use Twitter Favorites

I compiled my first Storify yesterday. There are many varying uses for Twitter’s favorites function. Retweets are generally not considered endorsements, but what about favorites? I took a look into what news orgs were hitting favorite on and asked them about it. Their replies and favorites are embedded below.




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My column brings change, and quick

I wrote a column in the lastest issue of our school newspaper about my college’s lack of proper social media use (read it first if you haven’t already). I was pretty critical in it, admittedly. I was only hoping to eventually see some silent changes in how they conducted their social media strategy online. Tonight I saw a tweet that made my week.

(tweet link)

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