In a move that gets us one step closer to actually treating the incarcerated like people, Connecticut has become the first state to make prison calls free for inmates and their families.
According to CNN, a bill to make all voice communication, including through video and email, free for those incarcerated and the people receiving their communication receive support in both the state House and Senate. Under the bill, those incarcerated will receive 90 minutes of free phone calls, with the cost being paid through tax dollars. Governor Ned Lamont signed the bill on June 16, and it will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2022 for juvenile facilities, and Oct. 22, 2022 for adult facilities.
“Today, Connecticut made history by becoming the first state to make prison calls, and all other communication, free,” Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, a non-profit that works for prison reform, told CNN of the signing. “This historic legislation will change lives: It will keep food on the table for struggling families, children in contact with their parents, and our communities safer.”
The bill even has the support of Securus Technologies, the telecommunications provider responsible for the secure communications systems used in Connecticut’s correctional facilities. “This important legislation not only provides relief for consumers, it also is a bellwether for other state and local jurisdictions looking for ways to make these products and services more affordable and more accessible,” the statement said. Securus has also said it will begin reducing call rates next month by about 20 percent ahead of the law being enacted.
This is undoubtedly good news for those incarcerated and their families. I think we all generally understand that America’s prison system is both awful and weird as shit. You’d think we’d want to create an environment that would treat people like humans and actually try to reform them so that they don’t repeat the same mistakes. You’d also think that the country would try to fix the socioeconomic factors that lead people to a life of crime, but America is always going to America. While this is a small step, it’s a necessary one for inmates and families whose communication was limited by a lack of funds.
While Connecticut is the first state to provide free phone calls for the incarcerated, in 2019 New York City became the first city to do the same. While inmates originally had to pay 50 cents for the first minute and five cents for every minute after, the Department of Corrections now covers the cost of the over 25,000 calls made from city jails. Hopefully, we’ll begin to see more states adopting these kinds of measures in the near future.