Most facilities contract with a third-party company so you can fund prepaid calls, but if those calls are long distance, it can become cost-prohibitive. Luckily there is a way to pay local call rates for long-distance calls on a prepaid service.
First, Do Some Very Basic Research
Find out the area code for the jail or prison. Don’t just look up the area where the prison is located and assume it will be the same area code throughout the region. Many areas of the country have several different area codes within the same county.
Call the jail and ask specifically what the area code is for the phones being used by inmates to call friends and family.
Choose a Prepaid Cell Phone Carrier
Call three or four of them (Examples: Cricket, Verizon prepaid, ATT prepaid, Boost Mobile, Straight Talk) and ask them if they allow you to choose your area code when they generate a new phone number. It is not necessary to explain why you want to do this. Simply ask, “I need the phone number to have a XXX area code even though I live in XXX. Can you do that?” Most of them will do it for you.
Check the various prepaid company prices per month. Remember, this phone is for your inmate calls, which means you do not need bells and whistles or Internet. Just buy the cheapest plan that provides unlimited talk time.
Buy the Phone
Prepaid cell phone companies usually run specials where you can get a basic phone for under $50. Ask the company what specials they are running or check out their website sales. You can even buy a used one off Craigslist, EBay etc., but be sure that it works with the prepaid plan you have chosen. Also be sure it has not been stolen.
Be Careful About How You Activate it
Once you buy the phone, it must be activated. Don’t use the automated activation system because it will give you a new number with your local area code. Call and get a customer service representative on the line, explain you need a XXX area code and have them generate a number for you and activate the phone.
Give your new number to your inmate and open a prepaid account with whichever provider the jail/prison uses (Example: Global Tel Link, Securus, etc.). Attach the account to this new phone number. Any time your inmate calls you, the local rate, not the long distance rates for the jail’s prepaid system, will apply. The savings can be substantial, which means you and your inmate can talk longer or more often.
You will need to pay a monthly fee to the prepaid cellular company for the service, but this is going to be nominal compared to what long-distance prepaid calls would be if you used your regular number for the calls.
Note: This typically won’t work if the jail or prison does not contract with a third-party prepaid phone company because cell phones cannot accept traditional collect calls and your landline is going to have your local area code. The good news is that most jails/prisons have moved to third-party phone systems.
Additional blog on inmate phone calls: More charges after he called me from jail. Why?