Prison Phone Companies Fight for Lucrative Florida DOC Contract

Prison Phone Companies Fight for Lucrative Florida DOC Contract

By David Ganim

In April 2013, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) issued an invitation for companies to bid on the department’s coveted prison phone contract.

The FDOC evaluated responses to the bid invitation and conducted negotiations with three companies: Global Tel*Link (GTL), Securus Technologies, Inc., which currently holds the department’s phone contract, and CenturyLink – the nation’s three largest prison phone service providers. The FDOC then issued a request for best and final offers (BAFO), and each company responded by June 18, 2013. After reviewing the final bids, the FDOC selected CenturyLink as the company that demonstrated the best value and service.

CenturyLink was able to woo the FDOC by offering an unusual proposition – increasing the department’s “commission” kickback to 62.6% of gross prison phone revenue from the current rate of 35%, while lowering the cost of a 15-minute call by approximately 25%. The 62.6% commission would be in effect for the initial contract term of five years, then change to 63.6% for the first two one-year renewals and increase to 64.1% for the third, fourth, and fifth-year renewals.

CenturyLink indicated that its proposed rates did not include a per-call surcharge, which would allow prisoners to make more frequent calls at a lower cost.

Not to be outdone, Securus’ BAFO included a 46% commission for the first 5 years and then 75% for the next five one-year renewals. Further, the company offered a free medication prescription discount plan for FDOC employees and prisoners upon their release. GTL’s BAFO included a 65% commission for the first five years and 70% for the next five one-year renewals, plus a $100,000 annual fee for a “technology fund” and a cell phone detection system at no additional cost.

All three companies offered to provide blended rates of under $.10 per minute for all categories of prison phone calls.

The FDOC selected CenturyLink as the winning bidder even though Global Tel*Link’s initial bid was reportedly rated higher. GTL and Securus complained, and the FDOC decided to rebid the contract. CenturyLink filed a protest in response, resulting in a three-way battle among the prison phone firms.

The Florida Division of Administrative Hearings dismissed all of the protests on November 1, 2013, finding that the companies had “failed to prove that the Department’s rejection of all replies due to unclear criteria for [the contract] award is illegal, arbitrary, dishonest, or fraudulent.”

Consequently, the FDOC’s phone contract will again be rebid, which will likely result in another contentious round of bidding and further protests.

Sources:; Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, Docket Nos. 13-003028BID, 13-003029BID, 13-003030BID, 13-003041BID; BAFOs from CenturyLink, Securus and GTL

(First published by Prison Legal News and used here by permission)