Efforts To Lower Costs Of Prison Phone Calls

Apr 26, 2016
Originally published on April 26, 2016 11:58 am

Studies show prisoners who stay connected with their families have lower recidivism.  Yet, the cost of keeping in touch is proving quite high for many.  Prison phone call rates are unregulated.

Danielle Chynoweth of Urbana is with the Center for Media Justice, which has worked on this issue nationally.   

"One third of families of the incarcerated went into debt to pay for phone calls and visits alone.  These are people taking out loans to pay their phone calls," she said.

WhanJell Harvey-Robinson, who had both parents behind bars.  She says a rate over 4 dollars a minute was charged.

"Over time, that got too expensive so you had to stop telling them you loved them.  And no child should ever feel like their love for their family is too expensive," she added.

Illinois' prison agency says it has negotiated lower rates of $3.55 for a 30 minute call, but cannot speak for all county jurisdictions.  Advocates want the price capped at 5 cents a minute. 

The Federal Communications Commission ordered limits as well, but phone companies are challenging that move. 

A large portion of the higher phone bills goes to state and local agencies to help cover the cost of security.

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