The Scandal Of Prison Phone Call Price Gouging

prison phone price gouging 300x229 The Scandal Of Prison Phone Call Price Gouging A recent article on the website of the British newspaper The Guardian discusses the impact of the high cost of telephone calls from U.S. prisons. This issue has become more and more prominent, culminating in the recent bipartisan letter to the FCC calling on the Federal Communications Commission to stop phone companies from charging inmates what they call unreasonable and predatory rates to make phone calls.

The Guardian article highlights the critical importance of telephone communication between prisoners and their loved ones. It is a key tool to reduce recidivism we support by offering a secure prison cell phone solution which enables more calls with more privacy while providing prisons a new source of funding to offset lower prison pay phone rates:

When a person is sent to prison, one of the most obvious and important ways to ensure a successful re-entry to society upon release to is maintain and strengthen familial bonds during incarceration. Most families are willing and eager to stay connected with their loved ones. Unfortunately, however, there are many barriers in place to prevent them from doing so, not least of which are the prohibitively expensive and sometimes downright exploitative costs.

One woman I spoke to (I’ll call her Jennifer) described the difficulty of staying in touch with her brother, who has spent the past 10 years in prison.

“After 10 years, my brother was finally transferred to a location where it’s only half a day’s drive (550 miles) to visit. One has to make an appointment up to three weeks in advance to be able to visit; the hotel rates in the area are double anywhere else; and the emotional and financial costs to get there are great because families are made to share the cost of punishment in very literal ways.”

Jennifer outlined some of those “very literal ways”, such as the $70-100 on gasoline per trip, the $90 per person for a hotel room, the $50-100 for food in the visiting room. Besides, she pays $40 to maintain a landline she wouldn’t otherwise have in order to be able to receive the one 3-5min collect call her brother is allotted each month, plus up to $20 for the cost of the call itself. That comes to around $400 for one five-hour visit and one five-minute phone call. Hardly what you’d call “meaningful contact”. But it is nonetheless necessary.

At least in Jennifer’s case, she and her husband are fortunate enough to be able to absorb these costs. That, however, is not the case for many families who cite similar experience. Most prisoners are housed in facilities located between 100 and 500 miles from their homes; some are housed more than 500 miles away. That makes regular contact visits impossible to many people – and means that phone contact is all the more crucial.

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One thought on “The Scandal Of Prison Phone Call Price Gouging

  1. Khushi

    Karen, with all due respect, your comment is absurd. I don’t know if you have any idea how celiac disease effects someone who suffers with it, but your worst toothache couldn’t even begin to compare to the misery someone who has celiac would endure if they were fed foods containing gluten day after day after day. And starvation is not an acceptable choice either. Newspapers, magazines, books, television, recreational time outdoors, visitation rights these are all extras that we allow prisoners. Food is not an extra, it is a necessity of life. Even the most brutal, murderous criminal is deserving of some minimal level of human dignity. You want to lock him in his cell for 24 hours a day with no human contact be my guest. However, subjecting him to a life sentence of physical illness because the prison can’t be bothered accommodating food allergies is beyond cruel and unusual punishment. And, not to mention, there are plenty of people in prison who DO NOT belong there, but nevertheless are there because of draconian laws, overzealous prosecutors, or a host of other factors. Let me put it another way in a hypothetical: Suppose you’re driving down the highway one day, minding your own business, obeying the traffic laws, a car pulls in front of you, and you get into a bad accident and the driver of the other car is killed. Was that your choice? Did you choose to take a life that afternoon? I think not. Yet, if you were charged with manslaughter and sent to prison, you would be there nonetheless. You may feel bad about what you did, as anyone would, but you didn’t intend to take another life. Wouldn’t you at least want to be treated with some level of human dignity and respect during your stay in prison, whether it’s for a week, a month, a year, five years, or so on? I think so

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