Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Two Companies Rake in Big Profits from Billion-Dollar Prisoner Phone Call Industry -

Two Companies Rake in Big Profits from Billion-Dollar Prisoner Phone Call Industry - 

Those unfortunate enough to be picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often find themselves locked away in detention facilities that aren’t governed by the same rules as state prisons.

At the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond, California, one of the differences is the cost of making a phone call. A couple of weeks ago, protesters gathered outside the facility that houses 1,100 prisoners to argue that what amounts to upwards of a $20 charge for a 15-minute phone call is cruel and inhumane treatment of inmates.

A call from inside WCDF costs $3.25 for the initial connection, with charges up to 25 cents a minute for in-state calls and 30 cents a minute for out-of-state. Calls are often dropped, requiring a reconnection charge. Unlike state prisons, which have been constrained by law since 2007 from extracting large concessions in phone service, facilities like WCDF can cut a deal that works best for them.

Officials of a national campaign, called Phone Justice for Immigrants in Detention, say Global Tel*Link (GTL) pays Contra Costa County a commission of up to 57% on phone calls, in addition to a $75,000 bonus for giving it the contract. The county received $653,506 in commissions from GTL in fiscal year 2011-12, according to the immigrants group.

GTL is one of the leaders in the $1.2 billion business of providing phone service to private and government prisons, according to Bloomberg. The Mobile, Alabama-based company has about half of the correctional phone services market and Securus Technologies has about 30%, according to Standard & Poor’s.

Up to two-thirds of the inmate charges are kicked back to prison operators as commissions, providing a powerful incentive for the system. Civil rights groups, religious organizations and congressional members have pressured the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do something about the exorbitant rates. 

The group says that the excessive charges present an additional hardship for low-income families already burdened by the incarceration of a family member, but also have a negative impact on detainees’ contact with their lawyers. “All of the legal defenses that exist in immigration court become illusory without telephone access,” the group argues in a fact-sheet that says the charges are in violation of ICE’s own standards, which dictate that, “Detainees shall have reasonable and equitable access to reasonably priced telephone services.”

However, the argument about denying detainees access to legal counsel may be moot, since, according to the group, “About 84% of all detained immigrants must represent themselves in court because they are not afforded the right to court-appointed attorneys and they cannot afford private defense lawyers.”


World's first 3D printed object created using brain waves -

World's first 3D printed object created using brain waves  - 

object created with mind e1368820380548 Chilean team announces first ever physical object created with the mind
A Chilean tech company has laid claim to creating the first physical object using the power of the mind.
George Lakowsky, the Chief Technical Officer for Thinker Thing, a self-described “creative group” successfully created the object using a brain-computer interface headset according to technology blog neurogadget.com.
Lakaowsky was able to use the interface to form a 3-D shape using his thoughts which were sent to a 3-D printer for fabrication of the object- a cluster of polygons that resemble the arm of a toy robot.
“Whilst the first object George created was very simple it’s a breakthrough of epic proportions in our project,” Thinker Things founder Bryan Salt said in an interview with the blog.
“George was able to control an evolutionary process that grows a 3D object using the small electrical impulses detectable in the brain. This evolving model is created in a form that can be read by the latest 3D printers, which allows us to create real physical objects directed by your mind,” he added.
The government funded Thinker Thing is also launching a project that will principles of science, art, and engineering to young children in some of the most remote regions of Chile using the new technology.
Children from these regions will use the interface to create “fantastical creatures of the mind” which will later be put on display.