Telmate: Canada Loses Millions To American Company, Exploiting Inmates & Their Families

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Telmate is a Texas based phone company also known as Synergy.  They run the phone service in many provincial jails across Canada, operating in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  In total they service 32 jails that have incarcerated men, women and youth.  

Telmate collects millions off of Canadian inmates and their families. In 2010, the Government of Saskatchewan entered into a contract with Telmate/Synergy and prisoners were required to pay a lot of money to reach out to their family and friends.  In 2015, Telmate collected $550,000 off Nova Scotia jails with only about $100,000 of that going to the inmate fund of the 4 institutions in that province.  More alarming is in the province of Saskatchewan.    In 2016, $121,316.23 was divided amongst the five adult institutions and according to officials, this money allows for programming and activities, but generally goes towards equipment, supplies for leisure and subscriptions to newspapers and TV. In May of 2017 the cost of calls increased from $1.35 for a 20 minute cal to $2.50 for a call.  Prior to this change all remand inmates received 3 free calls a day, one call for each hour that they were out, however this was changed to all inmates being allowed one free call daily.  Long distance calls did decrease.  A 20 minute call that used to cost $7.50, now only costs $2.50.  However, Telmate tries to make things a little bit cheaper by offering call packages by offering 15 calls for $19.95, 30 calls for $34.95 and 60 calls for $59.95, plus taxes and service fees.  

In May of 2017 it was also reported that Texas based Telmate makes $9 million from Saskatchewan inmates in provincial jails, yet the province of Saskatchewan receives less than $1 million off the profits.  These prices exploits inmates and their families by preying  upon a disadvantaged group of people whose only connection to the outside world is through the phone.  Having Telmate in these jails is effecting inmates and their families as the cost of calls are extremely expensive.  Maintaining connections to family and friends is proven to be what helps with the success of those who are incarcerated.  When an inmate can stay connected to their family and support system, they have better success rates for reintegration back to society.  However, the high cost of calls is preventing many in keeping connections to their family and community supports.

Since the contract has been in place Telmate has made more than $1 million each year the contract has been in place, while Saskatchewan only takes about 10% of the profits which goes into a trust account for inmates which has not even earns an average of about $140,511.36 a year since Telmate entered into Saskatchewan jails.  This deal has had Saskatchewan's opposition NDP justice critic arguing that the revenue should be kept in Canada, and the opposition of other provinces should be arguing for the same thing, and help eliminate this American phone company from Canadian jails. Saskatchewan is not the only province that uses Telmate and loses huge amounts of money to the U.S. A. based company, as most provincial jails across Canada are using Telmate which rips off Canadians.  Ask anyone who has a loved one incarcerated in a jail that uses Telmate, they will almost all  say that they have had numerous issues with Telmate such as dropped calls.  Many have calls dropping after 15 minutes and its impossible to get credit for these calls as the inmate has to call in and report the dropped call, yet when they do that , they are rarely credited for that call, leaving loved ones on the outside to have to spend more money on phone calls.

It is not uncommon for loved ones to spend hundreds of dollars a month on phone calls for their loved one in jail, with some spending what is the equivalent to one months rent.  This is ridiculous, that those who have no access to money are being charged such high prices to connect with their family and friends and as a result family needs to rebudget their lives to ensure that they have money available to keep in touch with their loved one incarcerated.  What is even more alarming is that there are many Crown corporations in Canada that could be doing the work that Telmate does in order to keep the Money in Canada and reduce the high cost of calls and eliminate the exploitation that occurs.

In 2017, the executive director of communications for the Ministry of Justice, Drew Wilby said that Telmate is "a specialized technology that's required due to the nature, to record calls, as well as hold them, (and) be able to play them back and utilize that."  Its odd that the Federal prisons in Canada do not use Telmate and they are able to manage their communication systems effectively with their agreements with Bell Canada.  While Saskatchewan government states that they are not aware of any companies that are able to provide a comparable service the question that lies in the mind of many is why can't one be created to keep money in the province and potentially make phone calls more affordable for those incarcerated.  By removing Telmate, phone services could be more affordable and the revenue collected from these services could stay within Canada or the provinces these institutions are located.  If federal prisons can successfully manage their phone systems using a Canadian phone system like Bell Canada who provides much more affordable phone services to inmates and their families, why can provincial jails not do the same?

If you have a loved one incarcerated in a provincial jail in Canada that is serviced by Telmate and tired of the high costs and exploitation to inmates and their families please sign this petition.  If you realize that our governments are allowing millions of dollars to be taken from the provinces and put into the U.S.A. sign this petition to help try and put an end to the high cost of phone services for incarcerated individuals and their families.