Costly Phone Rates Prevent Incarcerated From Staying Connected to the Outside World

Phones are the only way for prisoners to contact the outside world but many factors, including high rates and limited accessibility, have made it more difficult to make a call.

For some prisoners the inability to connect with loved ones has negatively affected their mental health and safe reintroduction into society.

The Criminalization Punishment and Education Project (CPEP), a prison rights advocacy group, highlights the many struggles imprisoned people face when making a phone call including high rates, privacy concerns and limited access to phones.

Telmate, an American phone service provider, provides phone services for prisons.

Piché noted that some issues under the previous provider Bell, service such as only being able to call landlines or high collect calling charges being sent to recipients have been resolved with the transition to Telmate.

However, many problems remain including being unable to leave messages and poor service quality. Concerns about privacy have also raised when it was made known that Telmate records and stores phone calls.

High costs associated with making phone calls are enough to discourage some incarcerated people from using the phones.

Incarcerated people can put money, which can take up to two weeks to be processed and added, on a prison card and make prepaid calls at a flat rate of $0.64 a minute for local calls and $1.55 for long distance.

If the prepaid cards are depleted, local collect calls are $0.70 plus tax for the recipient, and long distance collect calls are $0.08 a minute.

“When you’re in custody, you need to rely on some sort of outside support to make sure that you have a job, don’t lose your house and you’re able to have someone access and take care of finances for you,” said criminal lawyer Michael Spratt.

Read the rest of this article on Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication.

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