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BEWARE of Prison-tel
Posted by on
My son is in prison in GA. It is important to me that I receive his phone calls. Until recently we used Outside Connection, a small company in New York that set up phone numbers the prisoner can call and be redirected to a cell phone or any number of your choice. The cost is less than a regular collect call.

OC went out of business and it was suggested we use Prison-Tel in Texas. On Friday, the 18th of May I started the process of setting up two lines; one for my daughter-in-law and one for me. I was told they would call me back in 30 minutes but no call. I wasn't too worried because they state on their website they will provide that connection within 2 business days. I only had until May 31 to get this taken care of and was relieved on Monday when I called back and requested the 2 lines. On Tuesday I did get the first number and sent it to my son. I was told the 2nd number should come in any time. On Wed., Thurs., and Friday, etc. I called back. No number! It has now been 8 business days.

They say on their site they have added people to staff their phones. In the time I've been dealing with this I've figured out (and had it confirmed to me) there are only 2 people to service all the calls from OC.

As I have explained to them all along there is an ever closer time problem. They tell me it can take up to 7 days so I was hoping I could call the prison and submit the numbers myself. Here on day 8 they have yet to show any sense of urgency, they put me off and I have no 2nd number! Twice today they've hung up on me!

I've sent 3 emails to this company that promises they "appreciate and respect" their customers. They have never responded. I have now told them I will be contacting the TX attorney general, BBB, etc. should I not have a number in time to call the prison this afternoon. I can almost guarantee there won't be a number.

These people are a scam at worst. At best they are lying on their website, have absolutely no customer service skills, are rude and really don't care about the quality of their service or about their customer.

Stay away from them. They are a ripoff!
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User Replies:
Pomona Guy on 05/31/2007:
Why is your son in prison?
Sarah May on 05/31/2007:
Pamona Guy, I don't think that's relevant at all. And remember the last time you asked an irrelevant question?
jtcatt, I'm sorry they're giving you the run-around. Do you get the feeling they assume that their clientelé are second-class because they've got a loved one incarcerated? That's what it sounds like to me. Sort of how people who work for debt collection agencies generally don't care about customer service because they think they're dealing with lesser people. At any rate, thanks for the review and I hope that talking to your son gets easier for you.
rhondam718732 on 05/31/2007:
Can't you use the one number that's set up for now or does it ring at your daughter in laws?
Anonymous on 05/31/2007:
I don't think Vonage can help here.
Anonymous on 05/31/2007:
Think of it this way, you would not be having this problem if your son was a law abiding citizen. I am also wondering what your son is in prison for, even if it is not revelant.
Anonymous on 05/31/2007:
"Why is your son in prison?" is NOT relevant to this complaint, regardless of reader's interest. I will, however point out that it is the poster's son's responsibility to have outside contact. Kind of like when I was in boot camp. I didn't expect my parents to contact me, it was truly my responsibility to do that.

And, yes, Vonage will NOT help, here.
jtcatt on 05/31/2007:
OK, everyone, this is the deal. My son is in prison for drug trafficking. Since going to prison he has found Christ, gotten his GED with honors, started college, is tutoring other prisoners so they will be able to get their GEDs, has made Trustee status and is the liaison betweeen the Warden and his dorm. And on his first try he has been granted parole, something we just learned today.
He is not some scum who thinks everyone owes him, he freely admitts his sins and their effect on society. He is intent on reaching out to other kids who think they can beat the system. He is in contact with Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie, and last weekend attended a Kairos (Christian based) seminar thanks to resources within the community.
Now that I've satisfied, I hope, your various concerns I want you to know that I vote, am a taxpayer, a college graduate and entitled to talk with my son whenever I please. Prisoners do not receive phone calls, they make collect calls....there is no other way. Collect calls are expensive. There are companies out there that legitimately attempt to provide a less costly service but Prison-tel is not one of them. Any other questions?
Anonymous on 05/31/2007:
Thank you for the answers, jtcatt. I truly had NO idea about how this works.
jtcatt on 05/31/2007:
A special message to Sarah May... thank you. And to rhondam718732, my daughter-in-law is in TN and I am in NV.
ejack053824 on 05/31/2007:
At least this poster is honest! Can't say that about some of the other sewer dwelling floating turds that posts on here.
Anonymous on 05/31/2007:
Yeah I Echo Sara May's sentiments. Jcatt thanks for the post. It's sickening how our government allows these bandits to rape the innocent families of the incarcerated.

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. " – Matthew 25:40
jktshff1 on 05/31/2007:
I agree with the why not being relevant and am truly sorry that your son has put you through this. Apparently, from some of the other posts on this site, these companies have a "we can do it, just because. But....collect calls are more expensive but seem to have less problems and are cheaper in the long run.
OK, for what I am about to say I apologize first.
1. people in prison are like soldiers in foxholes.....everybody gets "religion".
2. People in prison are 2nd class citizens. They have committed a crime and are being "punished" at our exercise, schooling, college, 3 square meals a day, don't have to pay medical insurance..OK I could go on, but you get the drift.
3. Unfortunately,the people against whom these crimes are committed are not the only ones who suffer. The perp's family also suffers in ways that only they can understand.
4. We hear " I come from a...broken family, parent molested me, I lived in poverty...etc. I know quite a few people from exactly these backgrounds that are productive members of society and give no excuses for there actions and have not committed any crimes.

Last, I don't believe parole is the answer...If you do the crime, you do the time...ALL of it.

OK again, sorry for the rant, but I had to give my $.03
jtcatt on 05/31/2007:
I just have to say I don't get some of you guys. Walk in my shoes a mile, and I pray you don't, and then you give me your 3 cents about my situation. You have absolutely no idea what it is like to be the parent of a child who made the worst possible choices. Nor do you have any idea what it is like to see your son do a complete turn around and make his family so proud. Don't tell me that folks in prison are all alike. They are not. Don't tell me! You don't have a clue.
I had tried everything I or the so called experts knew to due to "save" this kid. Prison did punish him oh so well. And rather than be a horse's behind like most, my child reached inside himself and was able to turn himself around. And when your kid gets in trouble my child will be there for him and hopefully convince YOUR kid how wrong it is. Because the prison system (which I don't much like either) made available the tools for my son to escape a life of crime your child may be saved. And please, don't tell me it could never happen. IT CAN AND WILL HAPPEN EVEN TO YOU!
Parole? You should see his parole file; the certifications he achieved, the honors he received, the Christian work he has done within those prison bars. Not just walking the walk but out there within the prison community mentoring other prisoners, assisting them with their studies, problems, whatever. Never a black mark or punishment in his book. And you don't think he deserves parole? Would your kid be able to do as well? Would you not want your child to have the opportunity?
Make all the generalizations you want. Prison is full of scum and it does punish the criminal but it weeds out the ones who should go back into society, too. Not always but sometimes. Rather than your foolish generalizations I sure would have preferred you wish my son well, maybe even say a prayer for him, and frankly, I wish you had been kinder to me. You don't know what you're talking about. And it was none of your business to begin with. I was hoping this site would allow me to spread the word about Prison-Tel so other families already dealing with the hardships and pain of their loved ones' actions wouldn't fall victim to them. That's it. I sure as .... didn't either need or want your judgements (the Lord says we should not judge). Do you not think I have been through more grief than I can describe because of all this? I have. And just for your information, my son did not "get" religion. Christ has always been in his life. The Good Lord placed that officer on that road that night and gave my son a wake up call. Thank God.
Oh yeah, my son is paying for his college with his own money; has paid for his free exercise, his meals, his medical (which is a real joke)one way or the other. And for those who have no money he pays for theirs, too.
Walk in my shoes for just one mile. And praise the Lord you aren't where I am, your child isn't where my child is.
And, back on topic, Prison-Tel still has not issued me a second number. I have contacted the Texas Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, etc.
May God Bless and keep you and yours.
Anonymous on 05/31/2007:
Well I am glad that your son is not doing crimes anymore, but the cop could not have been that good if he took your son to jail. If he had been a good cop and was on the street while your son was selling drugs he would have just made him pay a huge fine and warned him. But it's good that he is trying to stay clean.
jtcatt on 05/31/2007:
In GA they go by the law. You are arrested, tried, convicted or exonorated. My son was justly convicted. He also owes a huge fine, more than most of us make in a lifetime. My son had been warned before, served a little jail time. Only a serious felony conviction and a long sentence got his attention. The cop was doing his job, thank God.
jktshff1 on 06/01/2007:
jtcatt, I do have first hand knowledge of your situation with your child. One of the reasons I'm so down on crime and criminals.
jtcatt on 06/01/2007:
jktshff1 ...your child? Apparently with a less positive outcome from your position. I am so very sorry.
I doubt I have any better opinion of the prison system or most prisoners but thank God there are exceptions to the rule and my son is one of them. The problem remains that I'm still having problems with Prison-tel this morning and feeling battered by them and now the unkind words of some of these posters. I thought this was a forum for exposing disreputable companies, etc. or I would never have posted here and invited the invasion of my personal story.
Sarah May on 06/01/2007:
jtcatt, for the record I too have had a loved one behind bars and he didn't make the turn-around that your son did. You are very JUSTLY proud of your son, and I'm personally touched to hear that he's doing well now.
My brother continued to make mistakes since being incarerated. He may be labeled "scum". But guess what, everyone? I still love him. And he still has the human right to talk to the people who love him. The companies who provide that service have employees who have lost sight of that, and apparently some people here have lost sight of that, but it doesn't change the reality that people who have made mistakes, whether they continue to make them or not, have a right to a family.
How well would it go for those who are behind bars if they weren't allowed to feel loved? Is there hope in that? Because if so, I'm missing it.
CautiousConsumer on 06/01/2007:
My brother is in prison. He is not allowed to make phone calls. Letters are all I have, so I understand how important it is to you to have contact. I hope you get this straightened out, good luck jtcatt.
jtcatt on 06/01/2007:
Sarah May.... I am so sorry about your loved one. My cousin was like that. Everyone's circumstances are different but the bottom line is we do love them, wish them to be the best they can be. And Cautious Consumer, I'm so sorry you can't talk with your brother. That has to make his situation even more difficult for both of you. For many of these guys that contact with loved ones is the most important few minutes of their day and their only comfort. I know my son will want to pray for both as I will. I didn't know my own faith until my son's conversion but I can tell you that prayer has been the cornerstone of his successes and my peace of mind. It is powerful. It is the one thing we can do for them any time we reach out to our "Higher Power." I find as time goes on I do it more and more often. Thank you for sharing a little of your stories with me. Feel free to contact me privately any time you wish.
Anonymous on 06/01/2007:
Lots of people know someone that is in jail, I am glad I don't know someone in jail.
jtcatt on 06/01/2007:
Ghosebuster.... I'm glad you don't either. It is an eye-opener we could all do without. I don't think many of these kids understand that one of the consequences of their bad judgements is the effect on the family. It is a nightmare.
My daughter-in-law and I colaborated on putting together a Parole hearing book that included many letters of support, copies of all the certificates, etc. he had earned (and there were many), an employment offer, and most important a letter to the Parole Board from my son where he told of his embarrassment facing his loved ones, his relief to be out of that life, the foolish and long reaching results of his actions. He understood! Few do.
I have a friend who works with at risk youth. He uses my son's book when talking to these kids. My son's words (by the way his name is Chaz) have impacted several kids headed down the same path he was. It is scarey to find out how it is in the world of crime. And it's heartbreaking not to be able to look in the eye those you love.
jtcatt on 06/02/2007:
Much to my surprise when I checked my account last night there was now the second number. It took two days to get the first one and eight for the 2nd. Of course it is now June and my son is no longer eligible to submit new phone numbers. Technically it will be another 6 months before those numbers can be submitted.
I talked with the Warden's secretary on the 31st, explained the problem and she advised that I send her the info and she will try to get the Warden to approve the late submission. It's not a sure thing but a little luck and the fact that my son has such an impressive record there will certainly be in his favor. We can only hope at this late date.
Prison-tel is not the solution to less costly communication with an incarcerated loved one. The lack of concern and professionalism demonstrated speak to either a lack of integrity or simply the inability to conduct their business in a satisfactory manner. I certainly would not recommend them under any circumstances.
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Poor service
Posted by on
DALLAS, TEXAS -- I signed up for service through Prisontel. I made a payment via their web service and was guaranteed a number within 2-3 business days. Weeks went by without service and every time I called I kept getting a busy signal. Finally I spoke with Janie in Finance after almost 3 weeks posted on our site for everyone to see.

Was finally given service on May 3, 2007. By then I was unable to get in touch with my relative and could not use their service due to their service problems which they confirmed was the reason. Finally fed up with waiting I requested to cancel the service. Everyone I spoke with was rude and not helpful at all. Janie in Finance stated," I have your money bit.. and all your getting back is $35.00. If that is the way they do business Buyer Beware they will not provide you service and is very rude. By the way they promise a 2-3 bus day turn around for service which I never got. Stay away from that company.
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User Replies:
jktshff1 on 06/04/2007:
Can people in prison make collect calls?
CrystalSword on 06/04/2007:
They can and its very expensive. There is a pay phone that they can use but they can not call a cell phone or like broadband....only on a landline based phone so charges can be reversed.
jktshff1 on 06/04/2007:
do the the time and all that goes with it.
From what I've seen on this website, It would be less expensive and troubling just to call collect.
At least they are not asking us to foot the bill for the phone calls too!
Skye on 06/04/2007:
Don't' people write letters anymore??? Seems a lot less expensive.
runaway on 06/04/2007:
So you're saying that people who are convicted of committing crimes don't have access to call cell phones and must rely on special services or collect call a landline phone...oh, the inhumanity of it all.
ever_rep on 07/17/2007:
throughout the U.S inmates CANNOT call out, unless it is collect and yes they are allowed calling cellphones// any kind of phone at that, but anything other than the largest phone company's the would need to set up prepay
jtcatt on 09/03/2007:
I also had really bad service from Prisontel. They state on their website they have increased their staff to support their volume of calls. Not so. From my many experiences calling them I have discovered only two phone staff and neither is of any help. Additionally, I ordered two lines. One came almost immediately and the other took well over a week. According to their site it takes 2-3 days to get a number. When I raised the roof about the poor execution of their services they told me they were changing their site to better state how long it can take. Two months later the site remains the same. Emails aren't answered, they tell us they will call us with the information and don't. Then, one of the numbers didn't work and it took two weeks of "investigation" to resolve that. The problem was the person communicating with the phone company involved did not have a clear picture of the actual problem and the phone company kept calling my number though in fact they shouldn't have even had my number because mine was OK and it was my daughter=in-law's that had the problem. Stay away from these guys. They are about the worst I've ever encountered.
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