After a significant price reduction, families calling their loved ones via hospital bedside phones will pay almost five times the amount of prisoners calling family members and friends from jail.
According to reports, the charges for prisoners who make phone calls via wing phones have been slashed 50% in a deal between HM Prison Service (BT) and HM Prison Service.
Calling landlines during the working day costs have been reduced from 6.33p per hour to 3.1p, and weekends from 5.62p per hour to 2.75p, according to Inside Time, a newspaper for prisoners.
Campaigners for the elderly are angered at the disparity in charges. They believe older patients are less likely have their own mobiles to communicate with family members.
Hospedia charges 13p per minute to call patients from outside.
The disparity was attacked by campaigners for the elderly, who say older people are more likely to rely on landlines and use the bedside phones rather than mobile phones – which can be brought into hospital by patients.
Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices campaign group, said: ‘The relatives calling in and patients themselves may be old folk who rely on landlines.
‘If there’s a case for prisoners to have cheaper calls, there’s certainly a case for those calling hospital patients.
“Older patients and their loved ones may not possess a mobile phone. Their family would need to use the bedside telephone. These charges need to be looked at.’
Hospedia claims that the 13 pence fee is set by network operators. It does not make any money off the fees.
It stated that patients could make free outward calls to 02, 03, and 03 numbers as well as mobile phones.
It is understood the price cut for jail phones is ‘intended to make pricing fairer for prisoners, by bringing the cost of calling from wing payphones into line with the cost of calling from in-cell phones’.
Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices campaign group, said: ‘The relatives calling in and patients themselves may be old folk who rely on landlines’
Inside Time said that ‘in recent years, fixed-line phones offering cheaper calls have been installed in more than 60 per cent of cells.
Prisoners without in-cell phones were doubly disadvantaged – having to queue for phones on landings, then having to pay more for their calls’.
The cost of calling a cell phone from prison has dropped from 14.08p to 6.88p per hour on weekdays to 9.18p per hour to 4.8p per min at weekends.
The Ministry of Justice said prison telephone services are important to retain family ties, which has been ‘shown to cut reoffending by 40 per cent’.
An MoJ spokesman said: ‘The cost of prisoner calls is not being subsidised by the taxpayer.’
A BT spokesman said it was ‘not responsible for setting the rates’ adding it was ‘within the remit’ of HM Prisons Service.