Let your voice be heard: End the high costs of prison phone calls

prisonphonesDid you know that more than 15,000 children in Minnesota may not have the chance to send holiday greetings to their parents? This is because these children have an incarcerated parent. Due to the high costs of prison phone calls, it is difficult for many of these children to remain in contact with their parents during the holiday season. The harsh reality is that a 15-minute collect phone call received from a loved one who is incarcerated can cost roughly $6.45. Further, these children may also miss the opportunity to visit and spend quality time with their parents, since prisoners are incarcerated an average of 100 miles away from home and their families. As you can see, phone calls are truly a vital source of communication in order for families to remain connected. The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice seeks to ensure that children and families can remain in contact with their incarcerated loved ones by advocating for the costs of prison phone calls to be capped at a reasonable amount.

The high cost of prison phone calls is due to the associated commissions paid to prisons from phone companies. Prisons and phone companies enter into contracts for phone services. As a result, these phone companies pay commissions to the prisons. In Minnesota, state prisons receive 59% commissions on phone calls made from prisons, which generates over $3 million dollars in revenue each year. In turn, families must bear the burden of choosing between accepting a loved one’s call from prison and meeting their basic budgetary needs, like food and shelter. Many families will be forced to make these difficult decisions over the holiday season and throughout the upcoming year.

The Federal Communications Commission has opened a period for public comments in order to hear from families and community members who have been impacted by the high cost of in-state prison phone calls (calls received from loved ones in state prisons and county jails). Let your voice be heard by submitting your comments today!

By lifting your voice, you can promote strong families and safe communities.

Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a speaker, writer, and change agent. At the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Dr. Tyner serves as Clinical Law Faculty and Director of Diversity. She teaches in the Community Justice Project, an award-winning civil rights clinic.

January 13, 2015
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