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The rules that govern calling an inmate may depend on the country in which a person is jailed as well as the particular jail. In most places, however, a person must wait to receive a call from a prisoner rather than calling an inmate. An individual may, however, call a prison to obtain information about a prisoner or learn the rules for visiting, providing money, or sending mail. In an emergency situation, a person may also contact a prison official and leave a message for a prisoner. For example, this may occur if a family member has been severely injured or has died.
In most jurisdictions, there are no mechanisms in place for calling an inmate. Instead, you must wait for an inmate to call you if you want to communicate with him by telephone. Usually, inmates are allowed to make collect telephone calls, which means you will be billed for the call if you accept it. Many people find that inmate calls are rather expensive, as they are usually billed per minute.
Depending on the prison in which the prisoner is incarcerated, prepaid prisoner phones calls may be permitted. With this type of arrangement, you may send advance payment of behalf of the prisoner, which will allow him to call you without using the collect call phone service. In some cases, this may prove cheaper than accepting collect calls. In fact, some prepaid prisoner call services charge flat rates for these calls instead of per-minute fees.
Though prisoners are usually permitted to make collect or prepaid calls, they are typically limited in terms of when and how long they can converse on the phone. As such, you may wish to make an effort to remain available when the inmate is likely to call. Additionally, many prisoners will only allow prisoners to call individuals who are on the inmate’s approved telephone contact list.
You may call the prison for various reasons other than calling an inmate. For example, you may call a prisoner to learn the rules for such things as visitations, adding money to a prisoner's account, or sending mail and packages. Often, however, you can obtain this information by visiting a prison’s website instead. You may also call a prison in the event of an urgent situation that cannot wait until the prisoner calls you next. For example, you may leave a message with a prison official in the event of the death of an inmate's family member or a similar situation.
We had a local sheriff who lost his last campaign and became a private citizen a few years ago. I found out he started working for a telecommunications company that specialized in prison phone service. All inmate collect calls were routed through that company, and they added a substantial charge per minute for the privilege. I heard stories that the final cost was close to $10 a minute, but I don't know that for sure.
Anyway, many prison systems use this company to handle collect calls from inmates, so be prepared to receive a very substantial phone bill later. Keep conversations as brief as possible, and always keep in mind that the prison can legally monitor these calls under certain circumstances. Try not to discuss anything with an inmate that could incriminate him or her during a trial or appeal.
I must have had a phone number similar to a friend of an inmate, because I would get collect calls from inmates about once or twice a day. I didn't want to accept the charges just to tell them they had a wrong number. I did accept some collect phone calls from a friend who had been arrested for DUI, though. She was scared, and needed to hear a friendly voice at 4 in the morning. She also needed to contact other people who could help her.
That's one tip I have for anyone with an incarcerated family member or friend. Try to have a pen and paper handy in case they need you to call other people on their behalf, like attorneys or family members or employers.
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