Advocates Want More Phone Calls for Prison Inmates

Apr 26, 2016

Inmates who maintain connections with their families are less likely to return to prison, but the cost of keeping in touch is proving quite high for many. Prison phone call rates are unregulated.

In Illinois, that's resulted in calls totaling over $4 per minute. 

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

Credit miskan / Flickr/Creative Commons

"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.

Whan Jell Harvey-Robinson, who had both parents behind bars.

"Just imagine is every time you spoke to your family or told them you loved them, it was $4.08. 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.

llinois' prison agency says it has negotiated lower rates to 3-dollars-55 cents for 30 minutes. But 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.