How To Make Money On Phonecalls From Prison.
Brian Prins is an affable salesman who touts the benefits of his prepaid collect-calling service in a distinct Long Island accent. He's also an ex-con who served five years in a Pennsylvania state prison for aggravated assault and possession of stolen car parts, so when he explains that he's simply helping families stay in touch, stay together, and stay out of debt, you might want to listen.
"I know how much phone calls from prison cost, and how much an inmate needs to talk to his family and friends," says Prins, who himself racked up $1,000 in monthly phone bills from behind bars.
Upon his release in 2002, Prins founded Outside Connection in a bid to undercut the collect-calling services that contract with prisons. Those contracts create virtual monopolies that charge a big premium - as much as four times the standard rate for collect calls.
With Outside Connection, family members and friends buy discounted phone time, and prisoners are given a direct-dial local number that routes calls straight to a family's chosen phone. Calls can also be sent to cell or Internet phones, which isn't possible with traditional collect calls.
Because it's a prepaid service, Outside Connection is never stuck with the bill, avoiding one of the major reasons traditional services charge inmates exorbitant rates. Inmate calls are a $1 billion market, so wresting just a small portion of that business from the major providers could give Prins's 12-person shop a solid payday.
Although Prins won't reveal his current revenue, he says his customer base has grown 100 percent a year for the past two years, mainly through word of mouth: "If you're helping these families, the inmates are going to pass the word around."
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