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.