Free phone calls for youthful offenders in Mecklenburg County jail

Free phone calls for youthful offenders

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden has a new agreement with Global Tel Link (GTL) to provide free telephone calls for residents in the jail under 18 years old. GTL was charging $1.71 for a 15-minute call. For some in the jail that cost was becoming a financial strain.

"It erases the barrier of cost which a lot them were fighting against," Director of Youth Programs Dr. Keith Cradle said. "And so now imagine being able to talk to your Mom, Grandmom or whoever at any given time to help boost your spirits - just to talk about things or happening in real time instead of having to wait around or thinking about not having enough to pay for that phone call."

Youthful offenders are also granted a free video call once a week. This was a promise from then candidate McFadden. The new Sheriff believes this relief will improve public safety, help families stay connected, decrease recidivism and make communities stronger.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has had a contract with GTL since 2005. In a press release the Sheriff’s office states, “financial costs associated with telephone calls undermine family units and community ties.”

Last year GTL grossed $1,502,359.70 from the telephone charges from inside the Mecklenburg County jail. No word how GTL will make up for not charging youthful offenders. Cradle believes this benefit will make a difference for young people who need to communicate with their loved ones and legal team when they are at a low point in their lives.

"Everyone deserves a second chance," Cradle said. "We've all been down that road. This opportunity to make phone calls to people who believe in them - someone that cares for them, that builds self-esteem. It builds the foundation and it keeps that family unit intact."

The Sheriff’s Office also benefited from GTL charging a fee for phone service. A percentage of the money went to vocational programs happening inside the county jail. No word how much money MCSO may lose - if any - because of the new agreement, but the Sheriff’s office thinks it’s worth it.

The press release also states “The practice of limiting communication between people who lack adequate means to make phone calls, can result in worse outcomes.”

There could be more changes ahead. McFadden and the MCSO will continue to review current policies to determine what other changes need to be made for the safety and well-being of those in the custody and care of MCSO.

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