If Connecticut follows the lead of New York City, its prisoners may soon get free phone calls. NYC began allowing free calls earlier this year.
“The day it took effect in New York City, prisoners’ calls increased by 38%,” said Bianca Tylek, executive director of national prisoner advocacy groupWorthRises.
“Is the punishment from prison supposed to be that you are now completely severed from society, an outcast?” asked State Rep. Josh Elliot, a Hamden Democrat, who introduced legislation to make phone calls free for prisoners. He wants to make it possible for poor people to stay in touch with their families.
The bill won approval from the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee but was delayed in the writing appropriations committee. It is hoped that something will radically decrease the cost of the calls.
One complication in Connecticut is the possible loss of income made by the calls. ”In the 2018, Connecticut inmates made $13.2 million in calls. The state took $7.7 million in revenue from the phone calls, which are handled by a vender contracted by the state,” said Securus Vice President Joanna Acocella.
Securus is a company that provides phone services to inmates.
“The Department of Correction is supportive of efforts that increase communication between offenders and their loved ones, which will hopefully help reduce the rate of recidivism,” said Correction Department spokeswomen Karen Martucci.
“The point of making phone calls free to community members and their incarcerated loved ones is to encourage and promote communication,” Tylek said.
Currently, inmates and their families must set up an account with a minimum of $20 to prepay for calls.
“They receive two-min- ute warnings when they are about to run out of time and are charged for the full 15 minutes, whether they use all the time or not,” said Tylek. She says Connecticut is second only to Arkansas when it comes to the amount inmates are charged for phone calls.
Joanna Acocella claims that costs vary from state to state based on the infrastructure and services provided. “The calls we facilitate are supported by extensive monitoring and investigatory tools that prevent them from being used to harass a victim or plan a crime, cresting cost far beyond what is involved in a traditional call made outside of a prison environment.”