This guy, Tom Gores, and other owners of private prisons and private companies providing “services (classes, courses, treatment programs, probation) to the justice system are … as I have said for years … a disaster. They are focused on profit, not helping the individual nor society!
All studies show that inmates who have more contact – visits and/or calls – with friends and family are LESS LIKELY TO RE-OFFEND.
Obama had seen the evil in these price-gauging companies, and was phasing them out of all federal prisons, when tRump, jackass that he is, reversed that policy so that his donors and buddies who own the companies can make more money!
These companies also are moving from exorbitant phone rates to providing inmates with “free” tablets, then charging them for everything they do on them.
This makes sense: “The group’s report recommended abolishing commissions at jails and state prisons, eliminating excessive fees and making low rates the highest contract priority — or better yet making phone calls free so prisoners can maintain closer contact with families, considered one of the best ways to reduce recidivism.”
I am pleased to say that 5 years ago I organized a BOYCOTT of prison phones in Delaware, which succeeded in lowering rates. YOU SHOULD DO THIS WHEREVER YOU LIVE = Mail about 100 post cards to inmates, telling them the dates – one whole month – of the boycott ( at least 2 months out, giving them time to spread the word statewide), explain that no inmate should make any call during the month of x, 2020, unless ABSOLUTELY necessary! The resultant loss in revenue to the companies WILL get their attention!
Excerpts from the Article:
Tom Gores has made himself one of the richest men in Los Angeles buying castaway, often obscure businesses that he overhauls and unloads for big profits. That formula worked to perfection, for example, when his private equity firm acquired steel distributor PNA Group for an $18-million investment, cleaned house, made related acquisitions and sold the bulked-up company for more than $300 million, not including debt.
But with his latest purchase of a troubled asset, the 55-year-old billionaire has found himself in a harsh spotlight. The $1.6-billion acquisition of Securus Technologies has put Gores in control of a leading provider of telephone services to inmates— and a poster child for an industry widely condemned as a racket, given rates that can top a dollar a minute.
The Beverly Hills private equity titan has waded into a campaign against mass incarceration and what activists call the “prison industrial complex” — companies that operate or service correctional facilities, profiting off disproportionately poor and minority prisoners and their family members.
The decision to acquire the company in 2017 has raised eyebrows since the Detroit Pistons owner seemed an unlikely buyer. The prior year he drew glowing headlines for leading a campaign to raise at least $10 million amid the water crisis in Flint, Mich. — a majority black community where he grew up that has been devastated by auto-industry consolidation. And he’s been praised for his commitment to Detroit, where he’s funded charities and relocated the Pistons, a shrewd business move after a lengthy exodus to the suburbs led by prior ownership.
Gores, in an interview with The Times, said he knew his firm was courting “headline risk” when it decided to acquire Securus, but he saw the company as a solid business where Platinum could act as a “change agent.” He admits being taken aback by the activists’ campaign.
Platinum says it has begun reforms at the suburban Dallas telecom, replacing top management and reducing already declining phone rates by 14% in the last year to an average of 15 cents per minute, inclusive of all fees. Gores also said that his investment was not predicated on expensive calls, since rates were already coming down given the “public discussion” about them. Rather, he pointed to Securus’ computer tablets that allow inmates to make phone calls, take degree classes, enjoy entertainment and look for a job.
“We saw a lot more things than the rates,” he said. “The technology in this space is behind.”
.But impatient critics charge Platinum has not moved fast enough during its nearly two years of ownership, and Securus is still charging outrageously high rates — with a 15-minute call costing more than $10 at hundreds of jails — while profiting off additional fees.
It’s not a new controversy. Inmates, families and advocacy groups have for decades protested the high price of calls, typically paid by family members who open online accounts with Securus and other telecoms.
Facing pressure, the Federal Communications Commission in 2013 capped charges at 21 cents per minute for interstate calls from all types of facilities, though fees for simply adding money to an account can add to the cost. Charges have come down sharply in some state prisons. Securus signed a contract with Illinois that charges inmates less than a penny a minute for U.S. calls.
But there has been less headway at county and city jails where officials often rely on a share of call revenue to help fund their department. This common practice can account for 90% of the cost and is called a commission — but critics dub it a kickback and regressive tax that prison telecoms promote because it provides an incentive to inflate rates.
The company is making profits, the investment company — Platinum — is making profits and then you have the states and counties that are turning this into a revenue source.
With annual revenue of nearly $700 million, Securus is the second-largest prison telecom by market share, serving 3,400 correctional facilities and handling some 240 million calls last year. It also charges some of the highest rates, according to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative, which surveyed more than 2,000 local jails in 2018. The data show that 226 of the 250 most expensive jails had contracts with Securus, with three in Arkansas charging $24.82 for a 15-minute call.
“They are selling the equivalent of a luxury product,” said Wanda Bertram of the Prison Policy Initiative, adding that the company is willing to “jack up phone rates” to appease sheriffs who want higher commissions.
The group’s report recommended abolishing commissions at jails and state prisons, eliminating excessive fees and making low rates the highest contract priority — or better yet making phone calls free so prisoners can maintain closer contact with families, considered one of the best ways to reduce recidivism.
University of Baltimore law school professor Daniel Hatcher said that prison telecoms are just another example of private companies that partner with public agencies to extract revenue from the poorest citizens for services that should be funded by taxation.
“The company is making profits, the investment company — Platinum — is making profits and then you have the states and counties that are turning this into a revenue source,” said Hatcher, whose book “The Poverty Industry” highlighted such arrangements.
The companies that operate private prisons have long been controversial and have been thrust into the spotlight for running facilities holding undocumented immigrants caught up in President Trump’s border crackdown. They are the subject of divestment campaigns, but activists say that even vendors providing phone and other services should have no role in the system because they have a financial incentive to promote incarceration.
Bianca Tylek is executive director of Worth Rises, a nonprofit campaigning against Platinum and other private equity firms.(Kwame Owusu-Kesse)
“There is a difference between businesses that have a few ethical, questionable deviations and a business that at the root, at the core, is unethical, where there is not a redeemable piece of the business left when you fix it,” said Bianca Tylek, a Harvard Law School graduate and founder of Worth Rises, a New York nonprofit campaigning against Platinum and other private equity firms.
The stated mission of Worth Rises is to “dismantle the prison industrial complex,” but Tylek has lobbied for practical reform including legislation that would either lower the cost of calls or make them free. Her group found a receptive ear with presidential candidate and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who signed legislation that this year made New York the first major city to make jail phone calls free. The city got its costs with Securus down to 3 cents a minute. Worth Rises also is pushing reform bills in the state, Massachusetts, Connecticut and elsewhere.
Diane Lewis, 53, a Connecticut mother whose son served 11 years in state prison, said she struggled to afford calls that cost about $4 for 15 minutes. Sometimes family members ran up $200 monthly bills from Securus.“Talking to my son took priority over every bill in my house. Were there times the lights were off? Yeah. Were there times the gas was off? Yeah, but when he came out he was connected to his family. He knew when there was a new baby, when somebody died. That makes a huge difference,” said Lewis, who makes $49,000 a year working for a program that helps place former inmates in jobs.
If the Connecticut bill is signed into law, the state would be the first to make phone calls free for state prisoners, but past efforts have run into bureaucratic opposition because the state receives commission revenue now totaling about $7.5 million a year, said state Rep. Josh Elliott, who is carrying the bill. “That goes toward paying probation and parole officers and services. We are not taxing people for that,” he said.
In California, it costs $1.23 to make a 15-minute phone call from a prison, which puts the state in the middle of the pack. San Francisco this summer moved to become the nation’s second major city to provide free jail calls. There is also a bill in the Legislature that would require county jails to end commissions and lower their rates.
An Israeli immigrant, Gores was born in Nazareth to Maronite Christian parents who moved to the Flint area when he was 4. He worked in his dad’s grocery growing up and put in a stint as a janitor to pay his way through Michigan State University. Worth an estimated $4.1 billion, according to Forbes, Gores has had a remarkable rise since moving to Los Angeles in 1988 to run a lumber-logistics software company founded with his brother Alec, with whom he learned the mergers-and-acquisitions business.
Gores split from his brother and founded Platinum in 1995. Alec Gores has his own L.A. private equity firm and is worth an estimated $2.2 billion. The larger Platinum, with $13 billion under management and a portfolio of 40 firms, is housed in opulent Beverly Hills offices once the headquarters of talent agency MCA. Gores’ home is a $38-million showpiece in the ultra-exclusive Beverly Park neighborhood in Beverly Hills. A third brother, Sam, founded and runs talent agency Paradigm.
Greif said that Platinum’s acquisition of Securus was a “high-visibility, high-risk” decision given the transformation of prison businesses into the category of a sin industry like tobacco. The circumstances surrounding the deal didn’t help. The acquisition closed less than a year after President Trump’s appointee to lead the Federal Communications Commission abandoned an Obama-era effort to impose caps on in-state calls, a priority for activists since about 80% of calls are local. Prison telecoms, including Securus, had sued to block the caps and had scored a victory in appeals court.
Then, just months after the deal closed, Platinum attempted to buy the third-largest prison telecom. The merger with ICSolutions was right out of the private equity industry’s playbook, but it infuriated activist groups, which blanketed the FCC docket in opposition, arguing that Securus had a history of flouting regulations and that the deal would lead to even higher rates.
In a surprise, the agency nixed the acquisition, prompting Platinum to abandon the deal. Tylek said the decision energized the activist community and made Platinum realize they wielded real power. “That opened their eyes,” she said.
In February, activist groups sent letters to Platinum and other private equity firms with holdings in prison service companies asking to meet with them and demanding that they exit those investments. One of the groups, the American Federation of Teachers, also issued a report that warned public pension fund managers that investing in private equity firms with such holdings could result in lower returns because of the growing backlash against the prison industry.
A month later, Worth Rises demanded Platinum implement a series of “operational reforms” and exit the Securus investment by the end of next year.Among the demands were free phone calls for all juvenile inmates, flat rates for all call types, a $5 price cap for a 30-minute video chat and free app options for all tablet content.
Barnhill told The Times that Platinum agrees rates are too high but reforming the company will be a slow process involving contract-by-contract negotiations as it attempts to wean corrections agencies off commissions. One method is requiring Securus to offer every agency it serves a commission-free contract option.
Tylek acknowledged the goal is to make companies such as Securus “toxic assets,” but said Platinum still needs to move faster on reforms, which she said have come only under the most extreme pressure. “They continue to promise action, but the longer it takes for our communities to see relief, the more their promises are sounding like marketing,” she said.
Activists plan to next target Apax Partners, a London firm that is raising money and owns electronic-monitoring company Attenti. Instead of freeing prisoners from jail or prison, critics say these companies actually widen the net of incarceration by encouraging monitoring. But Tylek said Worth Rises “will continue to be a thorn in Platinum Equity’s side,” focusing especially in Detroit, where Gores is a prominent local figure. “We will go at every available public pressure point, and if that means leveraging their public face with the Pistons we will do that,” Tylek said.
Mayor Mike Duggan, who has effusively praised Gores for bringing the Pistons back to the city, declined to comment for this article, with a spokesman saying that he has never heard of Securus.
During the height of the Colin Kaepernick controversy, when the NFL quarterback was drawing massive attention for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, Gores stood out when he said he would support his players if they wanted to do so themselves.
But the optics of an investment in a prison telecom are worsening as consensus grows that mass incarceration — with an estimated 2.2 million people in U.S. jails and prisons — has contributed to poverty, destroyed families and eaten into government budgets at all levels.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has had to repeatedly defend himself on the presidential campaign trail for his backing of 1994 tough-on-crime legislation that critics say contributed to the problem. And bipartisan legislation that could cut the prison terms of some federal offenders even drew President Trump’s signature this year.
Gores maintains the outcry has energized him, and he promised to get more personally involved in managing Securus, something typically left to Platinum’s operations staff. He also offered to sit down face to face with activists to help improve the company.
“There are not a lot of things that get me too excited, but this is in a way something where I can get inspired to make a difference to a lot of people,” he said. “I am a kid who grew up in Flint and started with nothing, and if I could figure that out and get where I am today then I can figure this out, and I am going to make a difference.”