At the Orange County jail, inmates are permitted to use the phone daily. Phone calls are typically allowed for between two and twelve hours per day. Telephone use is at the sole discretion of the guards, so phone privileges can be revoked for bad behavior or as guards see fit. Removal of privileges is a common way to discipline inmates without going to extreme measures like lockdown, so try not to invite negative attention if you want to keep your regular phone calls.
Each dorm has a total of six telephones. These telephones are shared by up to 100 inmates at a time. Even with the generous time allowance, it can often be difficult to get access to a phone. Phone use is also subject to jail politics. There's a general pecking order involved with getting your turn on the phone, which you should respect and follow to avoid conflicts. In many cases, each phone is “owned” or segregated by race. Using the wrong one, even innocently, can cause issues. If possible, observe phone use and who appears to control the phones to plan how to proceed. Don't forget to check out our section on other inmates to help you understand jail communication and politics.
Until recently, the Orange County jail system didn't allow inmates to make prepaid calls. All calls were handled collect, starting at $4 and increasing throughout the call's duration. Though these rates are the same, the payment burden is no longer strictly on the call recipients. Orange County jails recently switched telephone providers to a company called Global Telink. Though this system is expensive to use, it does include prepay services which make it easier for inmates to make phone calls.
Global Telink allows inmates to purchase a prepay account to load funds for future calls. Funds can be added in $25 or $50 increments, but beware: each time you add funds, Global Telink will assess a 19% tax on those funds before you even make a call. If you add $25 to your account, your account will receive $20.25 of those funds. With a $50 deposit, $40.50 of it will make it onto your prepay account.
A little-known secret of Orange County jail's telephone system is that Global Telink offers a “flat pay” account. This allows you to add funds to an inmate's account without paying the 19% fee. This is best used for inmates who don't expect to be released on bail, and those who will be spending an extended period of time at Orange County jail.
Since phone calls are placed collect, the operator will announce that you are calling from the Orange County jail. The other party will have the option to either accept or deny the call and its charges. Unfortunately, there's no way to hide or disguise the fact that you're calling from jail. You also won't have an opportunity to converse with the person you're calling before they accept charges. If you plan to call someone frequently from jail, make sure they're aware of the charges and willing to pay. You could also pay them in advance if you anticipate making a certain number of calls throughout the duration of your sentence.
Many inmates have reported trouble reaching cellular phones with the jail's telephone system. Some do get through, but it's often considered not to be worth wasting your calling time trying. Most cellular phone plans and providers also don't allow customers to accept collect calls – so even if you get through, there's no guarantee you'll reach the person you're trying to call. Try to memorize a few landline telephone numbers prior to serving your sentence, so that you can stay in touch with family and friends.