Throughout the history of the U.S. prison system, a debate has raged on about the proper place of private enterprise in the correctional system. One of the companies that have been at the center of this imbroglio has been Securus Technologies. Many of Securus’ critics claim that the company has not done enough to keep rates as low as they could be kept. Some of these misguided critics also believe that private enterprise has no place within the prison system, claiming that the perverse incentives created by private enterprise doing business there can never be outweighed by the supposed benefits of the free market.
However, reality tells a slightly different story. For example, throughout the state of Louisiana, Securus is the largest provider of inmate communication services. Although Securus has been able to provide an average of 70 percent of all revenues taken in back to the prison themselves in the form of commissions, it has also been able to simultaneously keep rates down to an average of just $0.15 per minute throughout the entire state. With such rates, it is possible for inmates to stay in touch with their loved ones on the outside of prison on an almost unlimited basis.
This stands in contrast to other states, such as Arizona, where the role of private companies like Securus are much reduced. In that state, the average price of a phone call is over $1.50 per minute, making it one of the most expensive in which for inmates to make outgoing calls from carceral institutions.
Many more such examples strongly illustrate the principle that the government is not necessarily the best service provider when it comes to inmate services. Not only is Securus able to keep the rates low for inmates and their family members, it has also been able to provide tremendous amounts of revenue to the prisons in which it does business.