Monday, January 24, 2022

The High Cost of Jail Phone Calls – But WHY?

Inmates on phone in jail - GettyImages-98884131

*While most people don’t think about it because they don’t have to, for some people the price of someone calling from jail can be incredibly high…just ask Shawn Barrera-Leaf.

Her son Gabe has been incarcerated for almost three years.  She recently calculated – based on credit cards and bank account statements – that she and her husband have spent $14,268 on phone calls for her son to call from jail over the past three years.

Their son has been behind bars at three different facilities in Michigan, including a stretch of almost three months in Isabella County Jail.  According to Shawn, it cost her $18.97 to speak with him for 15 minutes.

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Inmates on on phones (Getty)

Advocates say the price of using telephones behind bars is essential for those on the outside to stay in touch with individuals incarcerated and vice versa.  With the rise of COVID-19 that has caused a pandemic for much of 2020, in-person visitations at jails and prisons have been greatly reduced or suspended.  Therefore, telephone connection is vital.

“When he calls, sometimes he doesn’t talk much,” Barrera-Leaf told CBS News.  “But having the outside connection is still so important. “We used to go out to dinner and enjoy social time, two or three times a week, but we no longer do those things.  We’ve redirected those funds so that we can use it for him or use it to pay these expenses we weren’t encountering before.”

jail phone (red) & handcuffs (Getty)

For inquiring minds, they want to know, “Why are the call rates so high?”  Advocates and others familiar with the sky-high calls say inmates are subject to monopolies and surcharges because they’re unable to shop around for phone providers.  Nationwide, those familiar with the Prison Policy Initiative say, a 15-minute call from jail is $5.74, but can jump as high as $24.82.

Yet, there seems to be help on the way – maybe.  In September, almost 400 organizations urged the U.S. Senate to intervene, which resulted in the government body drafting and passing the Martha Wright Phone Justice Act.  The bill is aimed at banning jail facilities across the country from receiving compensation from communication providers, which is a major reason for the high price of calls.  The next phase of the bill has stalled on Capitol Hill.

Click here for more on this story via MSN News.




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