ITHACA, N.Y. –– Sheriff Derek Osborne announced the renegotiation of a long-standing contract on Thursday that will reduce the cost of inmate phone calls at Tompkins County Jail by more than half.

The new deal with Global Tel Link Corporation the service provider for Tompkins County inmate phone calls, reduces the previous cost of 32 cents per minute plus surcharges by more than half to 15 cents per minute, and does away with all surcharges entirely.

This is good news for inmates and their families, who have been charged “exorbitant” rates to keep in contact with loved ones, according to Osbourne.

“It just didn’t feel right to have inmates charged such an exorbitant amount, as such fees should not be considered punishment…especially when loved one are footing the bill,” Osbourne said.

According to a report by the not-for-profit think tank Prison Policy Initiative, in 2018, Tompkins County Jail ranked among the highest in cost for inmate phone calls in New York State — at $9.95 for a 15-minute phone call. With the new price reduction, a 15-minutes phone call will cost just under $5.

In May of 2018, New York City became the first major U.S city to make phone calls free for inmates.

Sheriff Osbourne said Tompkins County inmate phones are unlikely to become free, as they are housed in a secure casing and are equipped with call recording and investigative tools, adding to operational cost.

New York State made headlines in 2019, and is continuing to do so after the New York State Legislature eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at