Your July 23 editorial "Wrong Number: Overcharging Prisoners Is Not Good Public Policy" really only tells part of the story. Admittedly I have been retired from the Department of Corrections for five years and the phone system has changed, but there are a number of factors your readers need to be aware of that impact costs.
The frequency and length of calls by state inmates is dependent on their custody level, the programming they have successfully completed and their behavior record while incarcerated. Phone calls are powerful incentives for inmates to participate in programming and conform with institution rules.
All inmate phone calls are monitored and recorded. This process is expensive and requires special equipment and manpower to employ. This monitoring is crucial to the secure operation of correctional facilities and has been instrumental in foiling criminal activity both inside and outside our institutions. You point out that monies from these systems are returned to the state and to inmate welfare funds. These funds are used for purposes that would otherwise be borne by taxpayers.
I agree that keeping in touch with loved ones is an important tool in the rehabilitation process, but the inmate phone system by its nature will be more costly than your home phone.
The writer was the superintendent at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh.