10/17/17 – Prison Phones

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About 600,000 people will be released from federal and state prisons this year.  Within three-years, two-thirds will be rearrested.

Here’s what’s happening behind the headlines.

Studies have shown that strong ties between prisoners and families increase the likelihood inmates will toe the straight and narrow after release.  Isolating them only makes it more likely they’ll again break the law.

A collect call home is the most important line of communication.  Especially when someone is incarcerated down-state and the family lives upstate.  Or out-of-state.  Unable to regularly visit.

In many states, the prison phone systems are the wild west.  You wouldn’t recognize most service providers.  Contracts are awarded to obscure companies.  Because the business model is different than with an AT&T or Verizon.

Many of these companies charge exorbitant rates – as high as 14-dollars a minute — and various add-on fees.  In some cases, families may spend hundreds of dollars each month for a twice-weekly phone call.

Many prisons approve these harsh fees because they oftentimes get a share of the profits.  Depending on the state, there is little accountability on how off-the-books money is spent.

This arrangement is legal.  But this doesn’t make it right.

Prison officials should focus on ways to reduce recidivism.  And not profit off the families of inmates.

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