In Cook County Jail alone, inmates and detainees have placed more than 20.4 million calls since 2008, generating nearly $60 million in revenue.
Who profited? Securus Technologies, one of the nation's largest providers of inmate phone services—and Cook County government, which made $26.1 million in commissions during those years, according to county data. Securus has been the vendor for inmate phone services since September 2008.
Commissions often are used to pay for services, equipment or facilities unrelated to the cost of maintaining the calling service, and they drive up the cost of each call for inmates and their families, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Some advocates take it further, saying phone commissions help fund mass incarceration.