This is a Global Tel-Link prepaid call from Katherine Ferguson, a student at UNC.

Like thousands of Americans, I loved NPR’s Serial.

In case you’ve been living in a hole, it’s a week-by-week podcast installment that re-examines the 1999 murder of high-school student Hae Min Lee. Lee’s ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted and has been in a Maryland for 15 years.

As part of her investigation, Sarah Koenig talks to Syed on the phone – a lot.

And it adds up. $2,500 up.

Per the Bloomberg article (which you should absolutely read), in 2013, “the top rate for telephone calls to prisons in the U.S. was 89¢ per minute plus a $3.95 per-call charge, according to data collected by the Federal Communications Commission.”

So Koenig’s 40 hours chatting with Syed means big bucks for Global Tel-Link, the most popular prison telecom provider.

It’s 2015 and communication is no longer a luxury. The cost of Global Tel-Link calls is effectively an embargo on communication between inmates and their families, many of whom aren’t in the highest tax brackets.

Essentially, inmates aren’t reaping the benefits of a world in which communication is easy, cheap and fast.

The FCC has gotten involved, setting rate caps at 25¢ per minute for collect calls and 21¢ per minute for prepaid calls. The number of calls made has increased, but the caps are only temporary so the future of prison telecom providers is up in the air.

And then there’s the Nisha Call (which was probably not very expensive.)


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