Platinum Equity Chairman and CEO Tom Gores sent the following correspondence today in response to a letter dated May 20, 2020 from former FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Michael Copps, and Gloria Tristani requesting that Securus Technologies, a Platinum Equity portfolio company, take steps to support incarcerated individuals and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic:
June 5, 2020
Dear Commissioners Clyburn, Copps and Tristani:
Thank you for your May 20 correspondence, and for your continued efforts in support of robust and affordable communications services, particularly in the corrections environment. We are pleased to support those same goals both in concept and in action, as change agents who are transforming Securus Technologies and the industry as a whole.
We agree wholeheartedly that access to reasonably priced telephone service is more important than ever for the country’s incarcerated population in the face of restrictions on in-person visitation caused by the coronavirus crisis.
On March 13, the day COVID-19 was declared a national emergency in the United States, Securus began offering free and discounted services to every one of its state and county corrections agency customers.
Since then, the company has provided 16.1 million free phone calls totaling 116.2 million free minutes; 4.5 million free video connections; and 6.6 million free email message stamps to incarcerated individuals (and their families) at more than 731 facilities. In addition to the calls themselves being free, there are no funding or transaction fees associated with them.
The company has also provided additional free calling cards, or “compassion credits,” to connect incarcerated individuals who have fallen ill during the pandemic with their loved ones; provided free phone calls between incarcerated individuals and public defenders in certain locations where permitted; and created an inbound email system by providing printers and supplies at 33 locations in California where incarcerated individuals do not have access to individualized email.
Beyond communications connections, Securus also is providing free access to select games and movies on its tablets in facility locations where permitted. So far, more than 500,000 movie rentals and nearly 1 million games have been downloaded or accessed without charge since April.
Further, the company has signed the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, Chairman Pai’s initiative focused on mitigating the pandemic’s impact on telecommunications access.
All of these actions to support individuals impacted by COVID-19 are part of a broader effort to transform the company and make services more accessible and affordable for incarcerated individuals and their loved ones.
In January, CEO Dave Abel announced a number of commitments that include lowering the costs of phone calls and other communications products, increasing transparency, and engaging directly with communities impacted by incarceration.
Those transformation efforts haven’t come in a vacuum. They were mandated by Platinum Equity after acquiring the business in 2017. I am happy to report that since then, prices for Securus calling services have fallen by more than 30 percent.
To cite just one example: In Washtenaw County, where your letter cites information claiming that a 10-minute call “would cost about $11.62,” current rates are actually substantially lower. Under the current contract there, the rates are $0.21 per minute for all calls, or $2.10 for a 10-minute call – even with a substantial commission retained by the corrections agency under its contract.
Well before the COVID crisis, Inmate Calling Service rates at Securus were steadily declining even in the absence of FCC-imposed caps on intrastate rates, falling on average by about 50% since the FCC issued the 2013 Interstate Inmate Rate Order.
All of Securus’ rates for interstate calls are at or below the per-minute rates set by the FCC in the 2013 Interstate Rate Order, and its fees are in compliance with those promulgated in the FCC’s 2015 Inmate Rate Order. On an intrastate level, Securus’ rates are in compliance with the applicable state PUC / PSC rules and regulations.
Platinum Equity appointed CEO Dave Abel to transform Securus; establish a culture of service focused on the needs of incarcerated consumers and their families and not just on corrections agency customers; reduce telecom pricing; and invest in developing new technologies.
Dave and his team are making significant progress on those objectives. With your permission, I’d like to make them available to meet with you and discuss these reforms directly, to listen to your thoughts, and to consider ideas on what we can do better, faster or both.
Thank you again for your long record for public service on these issues, and for your willingness to work with us on these shared objectives.