When a loved one is sentenced to prison or jail, one of your main concerns likely revolves around staying in touch with them as much as possible.
Unfortunately, as you probably know by now, using the telephone to communicate with an inmate is expensive. Sadly, for many people, the cost of speaking to their incarcerated friends or family members via telephone is simply unaffordable.
Of course, the natural thing to do is look for a cheap – maybe even free – way to skirt the cost of these phone calls. In your search for an affordable inmate calling solution, you may have stumbled upon Google Voice, which seemingly provides exactly what you’re looking for.
At first, it may seem like the perfect solution: Voice is typically free to use for local calls, and is also an extremely cheap way to make long distance calls, as well.
Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t rely on Google Voice to communicate with your incarcerated loved ones via telephone. In this article, we’ll help you understand why this is.
Let’s get started.
As is the case in many other parts of the life of a prison inmate, incarcerated individuals face a number of restrictions when it comes to telephone communications.
And, as is often the case in these various other scenarios, these restrictions sometimes don’t make a whole lot of sense – to the incarcerated individual, or to their loved ones.
While you may have come to terms with this fact, it can still be a confusing situation for everyone involved. At the very least, you probably want to know why you can’t use Google Voice to speak to your incarcerated friend or family member.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
All calls made by inmates (in most prisons) are made possible via a phone system – such as Securus, Global Tel Link, or ICSolutions.
These phone systems essentially regulate and control a number of factors regarding the inmate’s telephone-related communications, such as:
Additionally, these systems allow prison staff to easily record all telephone conversations made by incarcerated individuals.
All established prison phone systems are regulated by the FCC, which ensures the systems – and all phone calls made via these systems – follow strict guidelines as dictated by the government.
Google Voice, unfortunately, is not affiliated with these systems, and is not regulated by the FCC. In other words, the restrictions placed on phone calls made from inmates aren’t a factor when it comes to Google Voice.
While that might sound like a good thing (on your end), an attempt by an inmate to skirt their phone call restrictions by even trying to use Voice could result in their phone privileges being temporarily revoked.
(Source / Caption: A statement by the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons regarding Inmate Telephone Regulations.)
(One thing to note is that not all prisons utilize these phone systems – but that doesn’t mean you and your loved one should risk using Google Voice to make phone calls, as they run the same risk as mentioned above.)
Phone calls made from prison are paid for by the inmate making the call, from their phone or commissary account. These funds must be readily available, as payment is made on a minute-by-minute basis as a phone call goes on.
In other words, even if you were to have money loaded onto your Google Voice account, you wouldn’t be able to use these funds to pay for the phone call from your incarcerated loved one. Your loved one isn’t “billed” for their phone calls as is customary outside of prison; if they don’t
have enough money in their account to pay for a phone call, they simply won’t be able to make the call in the first place (or they’ll be cut off once their account runs dry).
Unfortunately, a quick Google search will bring up a number of stories of individuals who had loaded up their Google Voice account with the intent of paying for their loved ones’ phone calls – only to discover they wouldn’t be able to do so. Not only that, but obtaining a refund from Google proved to be an additional hassle for many of these individuals – if they were able to get a refund at all.
Sadly, the money these individuals lost to Google Voice could have been used to fund their loved ones’ phone accounts. So, not only did these individuals lose the money up front, but they also presumably had to spend even more to correctly fund their incarcerated loved ones’ phone and commissary accounts anyway.
Another way for inmates to call their loved ones is to call them collect. Basically, this places the responsibility of paying for the phone call on the recipient of the call (rather than having payment come from the inmate’s phone card account).
Now, making a collect call to a Google Voice account may sound like a perfect way to lower the cost of long-distance phone calls (as Voice essentially makes all phone calls made within the US “local calls”).
Unfortunately, Google Voice simply cannot receive collect calls from anyone. It has nothing to do with the prison phone system or regulatory laws, either: Google Voice (and other VoIP systems) simply do not accept collect calls.
Similarly, calls made from a prison phone to a Google Voice number will not be connected.
As stated clearly in Google Voice’s forum:
“Google Voice cannot receive calls from inmates in correctional institutions. Neither collect calls, nor calls made from prepaid inmate accounts will work with Google Voice.”
Again, this isn’t due to regulatory restrictions by the FCC, nor does it have to do with a specific prison’s policies. Google has simply designed its Voice program to not accept phone calls made by inmates.
To recap, if you’re looking for a cheap and effective way to communicate with an incarcerated loved one via phone call, Google Voice is out of the question.
Attempting to use Google Voice to call (or receive a call from) your loved one will, at best, result in your spending time and money setting up your Voice account – only to discover that your calls simply won’t connect. And, even if your calls do connect (as may happen if the prison in question doesn’t use a regulated phone system), you’ll be risking your loved one’s phone privileges in the process.
So, your best choice is to simply avoid Google Voice altogether, and find a different inmate calling solution.
Luckily, Pigeonly offers an affordable way to communicate with your loved ones by phone (and through other methods, as well).
Unlike Google Voice, Pigeonly:
To learn more about how you can save money and time while communicating with your incarcerated loved one via phone, check out Pigeonly’s Voice program.