Since PCS took over the Michigan Department of Corrections phone contract, families, advocates of prisoners, and prisoners have had horrendous service and experiences with this company. Below is a detailed list of all of the issues Citizens for Prison Reform has been trying to address with PCS management. Citizens for Prison Reform has worked extensively with PCS since April, to no avail. It has been one continuous expensive problem with this phone contract.
Let’s start with the first problems that occurred:
1. PCS told people signing up for an account on the phone they had to get individual accounts for every single phone number that a prisoner would call, if individuals were obtaining prepaid time from PCS outside of the prison store pin purchase. This meant every single person had to pay $3.95 to set up an account, and then put a minimum of $25.00 on the account to even open an account. Later it was discovered this is simply not true. People can set up multiple numbers under one account. PCS lied to the phone users and paid needless fees to PCS.
2. PCS begin charging $4.95 to close an account. If a prisoner did not use their phone service for 90 days, PCS automatically closed the account and took the remaining money from whomever set up the account out in the community as well as a $4.95 fee. PCS now said they should not have done this, and say they no longer are. However, PCS never returned the balance of money on the account they took, the $3.95 set up fee or the rest of the money. That money should all be returned to every customer this happened to.
3. The contract between MDOC and PCS states that additional phones will be installed, and that broken phones will be fixed within the facilities within 2 business days. This has not occurred in any of the prisons where citizens have complained to Citizens for Prison reform about the service.
4. Families began experiencing numerous problems with the PCS service. Citizens for Prison Reform has continued to receive numerous complaints and recurring problems even after a person's number has supposedly been “fixed.” PCS Management responded on more than one occasion, that ‘every single number has to be fixed individually in their computer system.’ When asked why a letter was not sent to every single person with an account telling them whom to call about the problems, and explaining what PCS is doing to correct these numerous errors. PCS claimed this would be impossible and too much work. If this occurred with your phone company, certainly you would receive notification of the problems.
5. This company is unethical and their practices are bad business. Citizens for Prison Reform believes they are not in compliance with the MDOC contract, and what the contract states they are to be providing families and loved ones for phone service with inmates. Citizens are paying an astronomical amount of money for this type of service.
6. Citizens for Prison Reform also questions how it can be ethical in the contract that they suggest raising the rates so that MDOC could use the money for other items.
The most urgent and significant problems that cannot continue.
- You must hit "0" to accept the call- the service would not recognize you hitting "0", and you could not connect. This was happening randomly, but most every family had this issue with someone using the service. It has continued and was reported again this last week. Some people have not been able to talk for 2-3 days due to this issue, and some of the inmates have significant, severe mental illness and other disabilities and it is of urgent importance that they be able to speak with family members or advocates.
- When someone accepted the call they could hear their loved one talking, however, the inmate could not hear the person they called. They would have to call back 2-3 times before being able to connect. (Please note each time the call is accepted and the connection fee is charged even if you cannot hear or be heard.)
- People were accepting a call that they thought was their loved one but wires were crossed, and they were getting connected to wrong people. Inmates made calls to their loved one and someone else answered saying they were not their loved one or the number they dialed. (Again, this involves a charge for the connection and the time it took to figure out there was an error.)
- There have been long pauses in connections, and therefore the call will just be ended in the middle or beginning of the call.
- Their automated phone system to add funds was nonfunctional. The recording would tell you to put in your zip code, then tell you that zip code was nonexistent and hang up. Money could not be added to accounts or accounts set up using the PCS telephone number.
- People often gave up on the telephone set up for an account or adding money and started using the Internet, until this occurred:
- PCS shut down the website that was used since they were awarded the MDOC contract in 2011. PCS did not redirect customers to their new website. Management in California explained that they were "borrowing" the website from the previous company, and they chose to close it. Therefore, families have been frantic trying to learn where to go to add phone money on the Internet.
- People would deposit money on their phone number account and then it was not showing up on the account. Again, some of these individuals have full legal court ordered guardians, and were unable to talk for days to fragile individuals.
- Other individuals have had many other technical problems which has not allowed them to accept the calls, they are not getting connected.
- Phone numbers were working and functional, and now prisoners have not been able to call some of these numbers. There is money on the PCS account for that number, the when called or looked up online it keeps telling them they have to set up an account. (One has been using the number for over a year.)
We are asking that either MDOC or PCS immediately work to get letters out to every person with an account addressing all of these issues, and how each will be rectified. Furthermore, we believe that PCS has been in violation of the contact and we are asking that MDOC end the contract.
These problems did not exist with the previous company used by MDOC for prisoner phone calls and the rates were better before as well.
Please sign this petition asking your legislator to ask MDOC to end this expensive nightmare for the citizens of Michigan.
Citizens for Prison Reform
To view the contract: http://www.scribd.com/doc/56951330/PCS-phone-contract-with-MDOC