Connecticut Is Now The First State To Make Calls From Prisons Free For Inmates
from the long-overdue dept
Once you’re in jail, you’re just meat the government can abuse with near impunity. You belong to the state now and whatever happens to you is well-deserved — a sentiment not only felt by jailers but by an unfortunately large percentage of the US population.
You can be pressed into service, providing nearly free labor for the government, not to mention its favored government contractors — private businesses that enjoy the profit margin nearly free labor provides. Prison wages are inanely low. Costs for everything prisoners might want are insanely high.
While government officials enrich themselves by cutting every service to a bare minimum, private contractors are quick to hitch themselves to the money train, extricating massive amounts of wealth from literally captive audiences.
Like anyone else, inmates want to be able to speak to family members and loved ones. And a handful of private companies have stepped in to erect massive paywalls between prisoners and the people they wish to speak to. These programs have experienced exponential growth, thanks to private contractors cutting prisons and prison officials in on the profits.
But the money train has come off the rails in Connecticut. Last spring, the Connecticut House offered up a bill that would make prison calls free — aligning them with the services provided to everyone on the outside. The legislation would end one form of inmate profiteering: the charging of exorbitant fees by opportunistic middle men who realized locking down contracts with prisons meant never having to worry about competitive phone call pricing.
It was a long shot. Private contractors with considerable lobbying power were strongly opposed to losing access to this revenue stream. And those running jails and prisons were looking at losing access to a cut of service providers’ profits if the bill passed.
Unbelievably, the bill continued to receive legislative support. A couple of months after the Connecticut House passed its bill, the Senate passed one of its own. Less than month later, Governor Ned Lamont signed the bill into law, sticking it directly to Securus — a prison phone service provider with a long, ugly history of screwing inmates and their families with exorbitant per minute charges, recording privileged communications, and otherwise inflicting additional misery on people already experiencing plenty of misery already.
One year after receiving the governor’s signature, the law has gone into effect. As Worth Rises reports, prison phone calls are now officially and legally free in the state of Connecticut.
Connecticut is the first in the nation to make all calls free. Hopefully, more states will follow suit. And Worth Rises’ efforts have paid off in smaller ways elsewhere in the nation, paving the way for similar legislation in other states.
Pressured by Worth Rises and similar advocacy groups, the Federal Communication Commission last year imposed ceilings on the costs of interstate calls from convicted people in prisons and the mainly pre-trial detainees in jails. Before the FCC’s action, a handful but growing number of municipalities and states already were moving in that direction. Effective this July, Connecticut will become the first state where all calls between adult and juvenile incarcerated people and their families are free. And San Diego County, Calif. will offer an unlimited number of free calls of up to 15 minutes each for the incarcerated.
Starting Aug. 1, Massachusetts will offer the incarcerated up to 10 minutes of free calls weekly. Legislators in New York State legislators are considering a similar bill.
While we do want inmates to pay their debt to society, there’s nothing to be gained from bankrupting the innocent people who foot the bill for inmate calls — costs that cost as much as $14/minute. If we’re even going to pretend incarceration is tied to rehabilitation, erecting massive paywalls between inmates and the people who love and support them is not just counterproductive, it’s insanely mercenary.