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WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, families of prisoners filed a class action lawsuit against Global Tel*Link Corp. (“GTL”), Securus Technologies, LLC (“Securus”), and 3Cinteractive Corp. (“3CI”) for charging unlawfully inflated prices for collect calls made by incarcerated individuals in jails and prisons throughout the United States. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that those Defendants secretly fixed inflated prices for calls between prisoners and their family members, friends, attorneys, and others, while also repeatedly lying to local governments and their own customers about the costs of those calls in order to charge the inflated prices.

“We are filing this class action lawsuit to stop these companies from exploiting the vulnerable families of prisoners and to also recover financial damages for those families that have already been overcharged,” said Ashley Baxter, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit who paid inflated prices to accept phone calls from her fiancé while he was incarcerated.

During the last ten years, Securus and then GTL, the nation’s two largest providers of inmate calling services, sold a new type of call from prisoners—the “single call.” These “single calls” charged an astronomical price, i.e. $14.99 or $9.99, to accept a one-time collect call from an incarcerated person. The lawsuit alleges that Securus and GTL were able to charge these excessive “single call” prices by secretly agreeing to eliminate competition between them and to fix the same inflated “single call” prices to consumers in violation of the federal antitrust laws.

To justify charging such high prices for “single calls,” GTL and Securus claimed, in communications with both governments and consumers, that most of the prices consisted of “transaction fees” paid to 3CI to implement the calls. The lawsuit alleges that, in reality, Securus and GTL paid 3CI a mere fraction of the supposed “transaction fees” and secretly pocketed the difference, in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

“This lawsuit alleges that the Defendants engaged in unlawful schemes to maximize their profits at the expense of powerless individuals seeking the most basic communications—talking to their children, their parents, their spouses and their legal counsel,” said George Farah, a partner at Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC.

“Making it more expensive or unaffordable for prisoners and their loved ones to talk over the phone causes widespread social harm,” said Robert Braun, a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC. “When incarcerated parents lack regular contact with their children, those children suffer from higher rates of depression and poor school performance, and the parents are more likely to be arrested again.”

“What makes the conspiracy alleged in this case especially offensive is that the excessive charges were borne by untold numbers of low-income individuals and families who could least afford them,” stated Hannah Lieberman, legal director for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. “Such crass exploitation of vulnerable persons needs to be publicly exposed and cries out for redress.”

“It’s inhumane to use hidden kickbacks, collusion, and exploitative pricing to profit off of incarcerated people seeking a lifeline to the outside world,” said Brian Shearer, Legal Director of Justice Catalyst Law. “Our complaint alleges Defendants engaged in these dishonest commercial practices that have plagued our criminal justice system for too long.”

“Consumers now turn to the courts to end these abusive practices and receive compensation for the immense losses they have suffered financially,” said Paul Wright, founder and executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center. “Yet, the litigation cannot rectify the damage already done to family ties and relationships as a result of the alleged misconduct.”

The following organizations are representing the plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit: Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Justice Catalyst Law, Human Rights Defense Center, and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

You can view the complaint here.

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ABOUT HANDLEY FARAH & ANDERSON: Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC is a law firm that seeks to improve the world. The firm fights for: victims of antitrust abuses, workers deprived of wages, consumers deceived about products, tenants denied access to housing, investors who were defrauded, persons with disabilities denied access, whistleblowers who uncover fraud, and women and communities of color subject to discrimination. For additional information, please visit http://www.hfajustice.com or call (202) 559-2433.

ABOUT COHEN MILSTEIN SELLERS & TOLL: Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is is a national leader in plaintiff-side class action litigation.  As one of the premier law firms in the country handling major complex lawsuits, Cohen Milstein has more than 100 attorneys, Cohen Milstein has offices in Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL; and Raleigh, NC. For additional information, please visit http://www.cohenmilstein.com or call (202) 408-4600.

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org or call (202) 319-1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.

ABOUT JUSTICE CATALYST LAW: Justice Catalyst Law is a nonprofit that develops and litigates cases with broad-scale, real-world impact, focusing on the violations that underlie major social and economic injustice. With offices in New York and Washington, D.C., Justice Catalyst Law works nationally to support cases and policy work in the fields of antitrust, consumer law, employment law, and more on behalf of those denied access to justice. For more information, visit www.justicecatalyst.org.

ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENSE CENTER: The Human Rights Defense Center, founded in 1990 and based in Lake Worth, Florida, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. In addition to advocating on behalf prisoners and publishing books and magazines concerning the criminal justice system, Human Rights Defense Center engages in litigation on prisoner rights issues, including wrongful death, public records, class actions and Section 1983 civil rights cases. www.humanrightsdefensecenter.org  Human Rights Defense Center has extensive experience with prison phone issues, having launched the Prison Phone Justice Campaign in 2012. www.prisonphonejustice.org.